By Sports Reporter/Doha
A dramatic injury time brace from Youssef El Arabi saw Qatar’s Al Duhail snatch a stunning 2-1 win over Lokomotiv Tashkent in their 2018 AFC Champions League yesterday, the top Qatari side becoming the first team to qualify for the knockout stages.
After spurning a number of opportunities early on, Uzbekistan international Sardor Rashidov gave Lokomotiv the lead in the 35th minute, slotting home Shukhrat Mukhammadiev’s cutback to score his second goal of the tournament.
The hosts went on to end the half with a 1-0 lead and could have been further ahead had it not been for the heroics of Al Duhail keeper Amine Lecomte.
In the second half, Al Duhail went on the offensive in search of an equaliser but were reduced to just a single shot on target in the face of a defiant defensive display from Lokomotiv.
However, just as the Central Asians thought they had the three points in the bag, Al Duhail were awarded a penalty in the 90th minute after Almoez Ali was felled in the box by Salim Mustafoev. El Arabi stepped up and duly dispatched the spot-kick to net his fifth goal of the campaign.
And there was still time for a dramatic conclusion as in the fourth minute of stoppage time, El Arabi showed great composure to deceive his marker and finish past Ignatiy Nesterov to complete his side’s comeback in dramatic fashion.
The result means that Al Duhail have ensured a spot in the Round of 16 after a fourth successive win in Group B. Both teams have away fixtures coming up on Matchday Five, with Al Duhail facing Zobahan in Isfahan while Lokomotiv travel to Abu Dhabi to take on Al Wahda.
Meanwhile in Doha, last year’s runners-up Al Hilal’s chances of qualifying for the last 16 stage of the AFC Champions League suffered a huge blow when they were beaten by Qatar’s Al Rayyan.
Saudi giants Al Hilal, who were narrowly beaten 2-1 by Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds in the two-legged finals last November, were clearly off colour as Michael Laudrup’s Al Rayyan dominated play and created more chances at the Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Doha.
The teams had played a 1-1 draw in the first leg last week, but yesterday Abdelrazzaq Hamdallah played a starring role for Al Rayyan to give them their first victory after three consecutive draws.
The Moroccan first struck from the penalty spot in the 44th minute after he was brought down by Abdulla al-Zori and then produced a delectable backheel pass inside the box to allow captain Rodrigo Tabata to consolidate in the 66th minute.
Yasser al-Qahtani pulled one back for Al Hilal in the 90th minute courtesy of a penalty but that was little consolation as they stayed bottom of Group D with just two points from four matches, leaving them in serious danger of missing the knockout stages of the tournament.
Meanwhile, Tsukasa Shiotani’s late goal earned Al Ain a 1-1 away draw against Group D rivals Esteghlal.
Al Ain tried to open the scoring early in the game, but Rayan Yaslam’s left footed effort missed the target by a narrow margin 12 minutes in. Omar Abdulrahman tested the goalkeeper from outside the box but Seyed Hosseini was alert and made the save in the 24th minute.
Three minutes before the half time whistle, Mame Thiam’s third goal of the competition restored parity from the spot after Farshid Esmaeili was brought down inside the box.
Six minutes after the restart, Al Ain’s Marcus Berg’s shot was saved following a headed pass from Abdulrahman.
Al Ain continued to dominate and push for an equaliser, and they were finally rewarded in the 78th minute when Shiotani unleashed a powerful shot that left the Iranian goalkeeper helpless.
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