JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, Apr 16 – Qatar giants Al Duhail overcame spirited resistance from Iraq’s Al Shorta and their own suspect finishing to clinch a 2-0 win in their opening Asian Champions League match on Thursday.
Hussam Kadhim’s own goal gave Al Duhail the lead in the 36th minute before Brazilian Edmilson Junior 53rd-minute volley helped Sabri Lamouchi’s side grab three points in Jeddah.
The seven-times Qatar league champions dominated the Group C match, although Al Shorta did well to thwart their forwards on most occasions.
But sustained pressure eventually paid off and Al Duhail grabbed the opening goal in the 36th minute, albeit with a stroke of luck.
Kenyan star Michael Olunga let rip following a crisp one-two with Ali Karimi but the ball took a deflection off Kadhim, much to Al Shorta’s despair.
Both Olunga and Iranian Karimi had already missed chances and along with Almoez Ali they caused several anxious moments for the Iraqis.
Al Duhail’s crisp passing created their second goal, with Edmilson applying the finishing touch to Almoez’s assist with a volley from the centre of the box.
Also in Group C, Iran’s Esteghlal also kicked off their campaign in style, thrashing Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli 5-2 in Jeddah with Mehdi Ghaedi grabbing two second-half goals.
Farshid Esmeili put the Iranians ahead in the fifth minute but Omar al-Somah levelled the scores for Al Ahli in the 27th from the penalty spot.
The second half was Esteghlal all the way as goals from Ghaedi, Mohamed Naderi and Cheick Diabate completed the rout.
– Early shock –
Elsewhere, three-time champions Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia were held to a 2-2 draw in Group A by Uzbek debutants AGMK.
Al Hilal, who won the title in 2019 and twice when the tournament was called the Asian Club Championship, suffered an early shock at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium in Riyadh.
Mohamed al-Burayk’s ill-advised pass intended for goalkeeper Abdulla al-Mayouf created the opener as Zafar Polvonov stole the ball and slotted it into the empty net in the 11th minute.
AGMK, from the city of Almalyk some 70 kilometres (about 40 miles) from Tashkent, almost scored again a few minutes later when Husniddin Gafurov’s great effort from the left of the box just curled wide.
Al Hilal regrouped quickly and found the equaliser in the 27th minute after al-Burayk’s low shot was deflected into the net for an own goal by Sardor Rakhmanov.
Al Hilal took the lead when former Atletico Madrid player Luciano Vietto found himself in a perfect position to meet Andrew Carillo’s cross and tapped in in the 36th minute.
But the Uzbeks once again punished Al Hilal’s sloppy defending in the 70th minute. Goalkeeper al-Mayouf failed to catch a cross from Dilshodbek Akhmadaliev and Sanjar Shaakhmedov struck from close to earn his team a creditable draw.
Also in Group A, Tajikistan’s Istiqlol held UAE’s Shabab Al Ahli to a goalless draw.
The Asian Champions League’s five western zone groups are being played in Goa, Sharjah, Riyadh and Jeddah to minimise coronavirus risks.
The top teams and the three best second-placed sides will advance to the last-16 knockout phase.