ACL Group C: Esteghlal too strong for Al Ahli

TEHRAN – Iran’s Esteghlal cruised to a 5-2 victory against Al Ahli Saudi FC on Matchday One of the 2021 AFC Champions League Group C at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium on Thursday.

Esteghlal wasted no time in taking the initiative and were in the lead inside six minutes as Hrvoje Milic’s free-kick was deflected off the wall and into the path of Farshid Esmaeili who took it expertly on the half-volley, firing his side in front.

Al Ahli got a golden chance to equalize in 27th minute after Milic brought Salman Al Mowashar down inside the box prompting the referee to point to the spot. Syrian forward Omar Al Soma stepped up and converted to bring Al Ahli level.

Naderi put Esteghlal in front after taking advantage of a defensive mix up inside the box, stabbing in from close range in the 54th minute.

A quick break halfway through the second period saw Motahari run into acres of space down the right before feeding youngster Mehdi Ghayedi at the far post and the Esteghlal number 10 was left with a simple task to slot home his side’s third of the night in the 67th minute.

Al Ahli captain Motaz Hawsawi sent a cross into the box that was deflected into the path of Al Soma who showed his poacher’s instinct to send it past the Esteghlal goalkeeper, bringing his side to within a goal of their opponents in the 79th minute.

Ghayedi rifled home from 30 yards out to restore Esteghlal’s two-goal cushion and add his second of the game 86th minute.

The goal fest was concluded in the last minute of normal time after Mohammad Al Bassas tripped substitute Cheick Diabate inside the box and the Malian striker converted the resulting penalty himself to round off the scoring, making it 5-2 at the final whistle.

Esteghlal face Al Shorta of Iraq next, while Al Ahli play Qatar’s Al Duhail who had beaten Al Shorta 2-0 in the earlier Thursday fixture.

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