ACL Group C: Esteghlal beaten by Al Duhail

April 22, 2021 - 2:20

TEHRAN – Esteghlal football team of Iran suffered a late defeat against Al Duhail of Qatar in Group C of the 2021 AFC Champions League Wednesday night at King Abdullah Sport City Stadium in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Both sides went into the Matchday Three encounter hopeful of extending an unbeaten record, with Al Duhail having collected four points from their opening two games and Esteghlal having earned the full six points.

Ahmad Mousavi’s whipped cross from the right was converted into the back of the net through Amir Arsalan Motahari’s powerful header just four minutes into the match.

Al Duhail’s response did not take long as Abdullah Al Ahrak’s long ball into the box was controlled by Edmilson who then fired a left-footed effort from six yards out that was parried by goalkeeper Mohammad Rashid Mazaheri into the path of Michael Olunga who nodded home the equalizer in the 10th minute.

The Kenyan striker then added his second of the night, pouncing on a misplaced pass from Esteghlal center-back Masoud Rigi to seize possession inside the box and slot home Al Duhail’s second just before the half-hour mark.

Coach Farhad Majidi’s men were determined to get back into the game and 10 minutes before the half time break, they had restored parity as Farshid Esmaeili supplied a defense-splitting pass to Motahari who squared it across the face of goal for Cheick Diabate who was left with a simple tap-in for his third goal of the 2021 AFC Champions League.

Just before the referee prepared to blow the half-time whistle, Al Ahrak found space inside the Esteghlal area and swept home Mohammad Musa’s low cross from the right flank to put the Qatari side in the lead again.

The game’s end-to-end action continued after the restart with Esteghlal equalising a second time as Diabate’s header from the corner was blocked by Benatia but fell to club captain Esmaeili who sent a diving header into the empty net to make it 3-3 with his third goal in as many games.

Five minutes before the final whistle, Olunga completed the first hat-trick of the 2021 AFC Champions League, controlling a cross from substitute Ismael Mohammed and driving home his side’s winner on the turn to round off an entertaining battle for the top spot in the group.

With the win, Al Duhail topple Esteghlal off the summit of Group C as the Qataris move to seven points, leaving the Iranians a point behind. The two sides lock horns again three days later.