Duhail begin Asian campaign in style, Gharafa unlucky
February 13 2018 12:14 AM
Al Duhail’s Youssef Msakni (right) vies for the ball with Zobahan’s Milad Fakhreddini during the AFC Champions League match at Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium yesterday. PICTURES: Noushad Thekkayil

By Sports Reporter/Doha

Midfielder Karim Boudiaf scored twice in two minutes as Al Duhail began their AFC Champions League campaign in style, beating Iran’s Zobahan 3-1 in their opening Group B match at the Abdulla bin Khalifa Stadium here yesterday.
It was a comprehensive win for Djamel Belmadi’s side who displayed their ample potential to progress deep into the lucrative tournament which features top club sides across the vast continent and concludes at the end of the year.
“We were confident going into the match and the players ensured we bagged three points. I am very happy with their show,”Belmadi said.
“As I said earlier, it always puts you in a good frame of mind if you win the first match of any tournament and I am glad we did that with some flair,” the Algerian added.
Al Duhail are favourites to win the QNB Stars League this season, enjoying a two-point lead over nearest rivals Al Sadd and a massive seven-point advantage over third-placed Al Rayyan.
But domestic supremacy doesn’t always translate to regional dominance as many teams have discovered in the past, and Belmadi was wary of making predictions.
“The tournament has just begun. I don’t want to take one match at a time,” he said.
Al Duhail were in for a shock early in the match when when Brazilian Kiros Stanley fired the visitors ahead as early as in the 12th minute after the ball had rebounded off the post following a header by Morteza Tabrizi.
But they were never disheartened and kept looking for scoring opportunities although the plucky Zobahan defence backed superbly by goalkeeper Mohamed Mazaheri managed to keep them at a safe distance.
Mazaheri was particularly impressive, bringing off a spectacular save off Al Duhail captain Youssef Msakni and making some key clearances in front of the goal.
However, a spell of sustained pressure late in the second half eventually yielded results for the Qatar club as the Zobahan defence caved in.
Captain Youssef Msakni’s shot was brilliantly stopped by Mazaheri, but the ball fell perfectly for the lurking Boudiaf  who made no mistake from point blank range.
Barely had Zobahan recovered when Al Duhail went ahead in the 76th minute, a powerful header by Boudiaf off a Nam Tae-hee corner beating goalkeeper Mazaheri all ends up.
Nam produced another assist, and this time it was Msakni who shot home in the 84th minute ensuring three points for the Qatar.
But while Al Duhail will look to consolidate as the group stage continues, Al Gharafa were left with an uphill battle after they went down 3-2 to UAE champions Al Jazira in a Group A match in Abu Dhabi.
Brazilian Romarinho, who earlier played for Qatar’s El Jaish before they were merged with Lekhwiya, put Al Jazira ahead in the 10th minute, but new signing Mehdi Taremi equalised just a minute later on an assist by Moayad Hasan.
UAE star Ali Mabkhout however restored the hosts’ lead in the 27th minute and Ahmed al-Attas consolidated in the 69th to put Al Jazira on the road to victory.
A 71st minute strike by former Dutch star Wesley Sneijder off a Ahmed Alaeldin pass gave Al Gharafa hope but Al Jazira held on to grab the three opening points.
Meanwhile, in Group A, Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli defeated Iran’s Tractorsazi, with Mohanad Aseri netting the only goal of the match in the 67th minute.
Earlier in Group B, 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 found their tally boosted by an own goal by Al Wasl’s Saleem al-Sharjee.

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