AFC – AL AIN, Islamic Republic of Iran’s Esteghlal came from behind to earn a 2-1 win against UAE’s Al Ain at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on Matchday Six of the 2019 AFC Champions League Group C on Monday.
With the first clear-cut chance of the game, Al Ain took the lead through Marcus Berg 13 minutes in. The Swedish international striker brought the ball over the halfway line before supplying it to Bandar Al Ahbabi wide on the right.
Berg then charged into the penalty box to get on the end of Al Ahbabi’s return pass and apply a composed first-time finish through the legs of Seyed Hosseini for the opening goal.
Esteghlal equalised eight minutes later through Mohammad Daneshgar. The defender outmuscled his marker inside the box and powered home a header from Vorya Ghafouri’s out-swinging corner-kick.
Just as the first half drew to a close, Esteghlal turned the tables on their hosts through Morteza Tabrizi. Full-back Milad Zakipour advanced down the left and crossed low for Ayanda Patosi who cushioned the ball for Tabrizi to drill low into the bottom corner of Khaled Eisa’s net, sending his side into the dressing room in the lead.
Esteghlal came racing off the blocks in the second half, and within two minutes Mehdi Ghayedi had dribbled into Al Ain’s box, drawing a penalty kick after he was brought down by Tongo Doumbia.
Patosi stepped up to take the spot-kick and despite aiming for the top corner, goalkeeper Khaled Eisa was able to make a diving save to deny Esteghlal a third goal.
With the likes of Mohammed Abdulrahman Rayan Yaslam out injured, it was Al Ahbabi and Berg who posed all the danger to Esteghlal’s backline.
The pair led a counter attack with Al Ahbabi receiving the Swede’s pass and dribbling down the right before drilling an effort that was pushed by Hosseini into the path of Berg, who had the goal at his mercy and applied the finish. Omid Noorafkan was alert and cleared the ball off the goal line.
The result means Al Ain went an entire AFC Champions League campaign without a single win for the first time in their history as they finished bottom of the group with two points. Esteghlal, meanwhile, climbed up to eight points but stayed third, one point behind Al Duhail.