Qatar’s leading clubs stole the limelight from their UAE rivals on Tuesday on a dramatic day in the Asian Champions League.
Recently-crowned Qatar Stars League champions Al Duhail edged past Sharjah 2-1 and league runners Al Sadd twice rallying from a goal down to hold Al Ain 3-3.
While for Al Duhail it was their second victory in three matches, Al Sadd had to be satisfied with their second draw as an own goal by Boualem Khoukhi prevented them from gaining full points.
Al Duhail were clearly the better team in Group C with Almoez Ali and Ramin Rezaeian finding the target either side of half time at the brand new Education City Stadium, one of the venues for the 2022 World Cup.
Ali, the tournament golden boot as Qatar won the Asian Cup winning side early last year, opened the scoring or Al Duhail with a clinical low finish after receiving a long pass from Luiz Junior in the 41st minute.
Sharjah conceded their second goal just six minutes into the second half with Iranian Ramin Rezaeian curling in a free-kick from just outside the penalty area.
Although Brazilian Igor Coronado replied in the 58th minute from the penalty spot after he was brought down, Al Duhail held on to deny Sharjah their first victory in the tournament since 2004.
Xavi’s Al Sadd had to contend with a determined Al Ain side keen to record their first victory in Group D following their opening two losses.
The UAE side, who won the inaugural Champions League title in 2003 and have been runners-up twice, took an early lead with Togolese forward Kodjo Laba scoring off a pass from Wilson Eduardo in the fifth minute.
Al Sadd, the 2011 champions, equalised through 2019 AFC Footballer of the Year Akram Afif in the 35th minute, the striker firing in from close range following a pass from South Korean Nam Tae-Hee.
The Qatar giants’ joy lasted only three minutes, however, as Kazakh international Bauyrzhan Islamkhan again put visitors Al Ain ahead with a fine shot from outside the that slipped under the crossbar despite goalkeeper Saad al-Sheeb’s attempt to stop it.
Al Sadd responded with a purple patch as Santi Cazorla scored off an Afif pass in the 55th minute and Baghdad Bounedjah made good of an assist from Nam five minutes later to put their team ahead for the first time.
But the home team, who earlier in the day announced that young winger Saoud al-Nassr had tested positive for Covid-19, failed to hold on to their lead when Khoukhi’s attempt to clear the ball resulted in an own goal.