Despite political tensions, the Asian Champions League match in Abu Dhabi between host Al Jazira and Al Gharafa of Qatar was played in a relaxed atmosphere
Doha (AFP) - Midfielder Karim Boudiaf struck twice in two minutes to help Qatar’s Al Duhail beat Iran’s Zobahan 3-1 in their AFC Champions League debut on Monday.
Al Duhail, who were formed last year following the merger of top sides Lekhwiya and El Jaish, suffered an early shock when Brazilian Kiros Stanley fired the visitors ahead in the 12th minute after the ball rebounded off the post following a header by Morteza Tabrizi.
The Qatar Stars League leaders enjoyed better possession but the plucky Zobahan defence held out until the 74th minute when goalkeeper Mohamed Mazaheri blocked a shot by Youssef Msakni only for the ball to fall perfectly for Boudiaf to score from point blank range.
Two minutes later, Boudiaf scored again, with a powerful header following a corner. Msakni added a third to seal the three Group B points for the Qataris.
In the same group, Lokomotiv of Uzbekistan thrashed UAE’s Al Wasl 5-0 in Tashkent with Ikram Alibaev scoring twice in the second half.
Nivaldo and Sardor Rashidov were also on target for Lokomotiv, who benefited from an own goal by Al Wasl’s Saleem al-Sharjee.
In Group A, Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli beat Iran’s Tractorsazi, with Mohanad Aseri netting the only goal of the match in the 67th minute.
The game was played in Oman due to the ongoing political tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia that will also see Group D matches between Iran’s Esteghlal and Saudis Al-Hilal played at neutral venues.
Saudi Arabia had not wanted its teams to play in Iran and despite a plea from the Iranian FA to FIFA president Gianni Infantino last week to intervene so they could host the matches, the AFC ordered the games to be played at neutral venues.
Another Group A match saw, UAE champions Al Jazira edge out Qatar’s Al Gharafa 3-2 in Abu Dhabi.
It was the first time that a club from Qatar had played in the UAE since Qatar was diplomatically and economically isolated by Gulf rivals in June 2017. The game drew 5,000 spectators to the Mohammed ben Zayed Stadium and was played in a relaxed atmosphere.
Romarinho, who previously played for Qatar’s El Jaish, put Al Jazira ahead in the 10th minute, but new signing Mehdi Taremi equalised a minute later for Al Gharafa.
UAE star Ali Mabkhout restored the home lead in the 27th minute and Ahmed al-Attas consolidated it on 69 minutes.
A 71st minute strike by former Dutch star Wesley Sneijder gave Al Gharafa hope but Al Jazira held on to grab three points.