Esteghlal 2-0 Lokomotiv Tashkent [Esmaeili 37’ Ghorbani 84’]
Esteghlal took charge of Group A after downing Lokomotiv Tashkent 2-0 at the Azadi stadium in Tehran. With the group finely poised with all teams having won a game each, a win was absolutely vital on the day and it was the home team who showed intent.
Farhad Esmaeili opened the deadlock for the home team in the 37th minute when his low shot crept through a crowd of players from about 16 yards out. Though there were not much clear cut chances I the second half, Esteghlal put the result beyond doubt in the 84th minute.
Ali Ghorbani received a long ball from Milad Zakipour and cut in to the penalty box from the left wing and proceeded to curl home a right-footed effort past the goalkeeper.
The result means Lokomotiv are bottom in Group A but only a point off the second place.
Al Ahli 0-0 Al Taawoun
The 2015 finalists were the better team throughout the game though both teams hit the woodwork in their quest for a winner. Al Ahli’s Makhete Diop saw a cross clip the crossbar before Lucian San Martean also did a similar thing in the second half for the visitors.
Al Ahli just could not turn their dominance into goals and in the end had to settle for a share of the spoils. The result means both sides have four points from three games and are sandwiched between Esteghlal and Lokomotiv.
Bunyodkor 0-2 Zob Ahan [Bengtson 55’ Tabrizi 90+6’]
Uzbekistan’s Bunyodkor were relegated to their third loss of the campaign by Iran’s Zob Ahan who incidentally managed their first win in Group C after a 0-2 win in Tashkent.
In what was keenly contested first-half, it was the visitors who shaded proceedings. Rightfully, they got their go-ahead goal in the 55th minute when striker Jerry Bengston took advantage of a mistake from Javlon Mirabdullaev. The defender missed a routine clearance and it sent Bengston through who coolly slotted past the goalkeeper.
Just past the hour mark, forward Vadim Cemirtan was sent off for a dangerous tackle on Danial Emaeilifar as things looked bleak for the Uzbek side. And there was no comeback for them as Morteza Tabrizi slotted home an injury-time penalty to ensure the Uzbek side have now gone 17 continental games without a win.
The result sees Zob Ahan close the gap on second-placed Al Ain to just the one point in Group C.
Al Ahli 2-2 Al Ain [Al-Sahbi 26’ Fetfatzidis 50’ - Al Shamrani 28’ Al-Sahbi (OG) 58’]
Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli and 2016 finalists Al Ain played out a pulsating 2-2 draw in Jeddah as Al Ahli defender Aqeel Al-Sahbi ended up scoring a goal at both ends.
Al-Sahbi opened the scoring for Christian Gross’ side in the 26th minute when he flicked an outswinging corner from the left wing over the goalkeeper with the outside of his right foot. But the lead did not last long and Nassir Al Shamrani equalised two minutes later for the Emirati side. He was sent clear by a fantastic through ball from Omar Abdulrahman and Shamrani slid a finish in from a tight angle.
Right after the half-time break, Ioannis Fetfatzidis capitalised on a poor pass from the Al Ain goalkeeper, surged into the area, dribbled past a defender and slotted home from an acute angle, albeit from close range. Again, Al Ain hit back eight minutes later when Aqeel Al-Sahbi went from hero to villain after he headed in a corner inadvertently into his own net.
The result meant that Al Ahli are still two points clear at the top of Group C while Al Ain have Zob Ahan breathing down their necks