JEDDAH – Saudi teams again had a day to forget at the AFC Champions League when Al-Ittihad drew at home to Zobahan of Iran 2-2 and Al-Ahli lost to Qatar’s Al-Gharafa 3-2 in Doha Tuesday.
Ittihad lost two important points to visitor Zobahan after the two teams shared four goals in their Group B second-round match here.
Abdul-Malik Ziaya put Ittihad in front after 12 minutes and skipper Mohammad Noor doubled the lead four minutes before the break.
Fahadi Esmaeil, however, came to Zobahan’s rescue five minutes after the break, while his teammate Mohammed Ghazi shot in the equalizer two minutes later. Ittihad keeper Tayseer Al-Nutaif and defense will have a lot of soul-searching to do before the next match.
The draw severely dented last year’s beaten finalist’s chances to advance. The team sits third in the group with a single point. Zobahan is second with four point, two behind leader Bunyodkor.
Zobahan coach Mustafa Zada, talking to the mediamen after the game, said his players might have been over-awed by their opponent in the first half. “I told my players during the break that a match is 90 minutes and they have another 45 minutes. We took advantage of two chances and leveled the score,” he said.
Ittihad coach Enzo Hector said: “We are so sad for this draw which is like a loss to us.”
He admitted the defense made some errors and promised to correct the situation.
In the other Group B encounter Uzbek giant Bunyodkor continued its 100 percent record with Brazilian striker Denilson grabbing two to propel Luis Felipe Scolari’s side to a 2-1 victory over Al-Wehda of the UAE.
In Group A action Qatar’s Al-Gharafa left it late to overcome Saudi side Al-Ahli 3-2 in Doha thanks to goals from Sadd Al-Shammari and Brazilian striker Araujo in the last 10 minutes.
The host took the lead through Mohammed Al-Zaini after just two minutes, but Al-Ahli pulled it back to 2-1 until Al-Shammari’s and Araujo’s heroics sealed the win in the game’s dying moments.
In the other Group A match in Tehran, Iranian champion Esteghlal played out a goalless draw with Al-Jazira of the UAE.
Elsewhere Kashima Antlers won a Group F clash of East Asia’s titans Tuesday with a dramatic 2-1 win over Jeonbuk Motors, while Beijing Guoan dug deep to beat Kawasaki Frontale.
In the other Group F game, Changchun Yatai crushed Indonesian minnow Persipura 9-0 in a lopsided contest. It was an easy three points for Changchun as it bounced back emphatically from last week’s 1-0 loss to Kashima.
Chinese teams enjoyed a good night, with Super League champion Beijing Guoan traveling to Japan and beating Kawasaki Frontale 3-1. Melbourne Victory also remains pointless following a 2-0 home loss to Seongnam Ilhwa, which became the first South Korean club to win an AFC Champions League game in Australia.
Seongnam, seven-time K-League champion, remains unbeaten in Group E. – SG