Persepolis FC flexed their credentials as favourites as they came from behind to defeat Al Rayyan SC 3-1 in Group E of the 2021 AFC Champions League in Margao, India, on Saturday.
The Iran side turned on the power in the second half as they added to the 1-0 opening day win against UAE's Al Wahda FSCC while Al Rayyan were left in search of their first victory, having been held 0-0 by FC Goa on Matchday One. Persepolis raced off the blocks and wasted no time in asserting themselves, coming close to opening the scoring after just three minutes when Vahid Amiri raced down the left flank and relayed the ball to Shahriyar Moghanlou, who found himself in a one on one situation with Al Rayyan goalkeeper Fahad Younis, but the forward was flagged offside.
The Iran Pro League champions continued to press with their free flowing passing but Al Rayyan were up to task with their sound defending. A lapse in concentration, however, saw Persepolis concede against the run of play in the 19th minute when Naif Al Hadhrami rose highest to head home Abdelaziz Hatim’s free-kick into the bottom right of the net.
An undaunted Persepolis pushed for the equaliser but Al Rayyan goalkeeper Younis was at the top of his game, first saving Mahdi Torabi’s effort from inside the area on 24 minutes and then denying Moghanlou’s drive in the 39th minute. The Al Rayyan shotstopper showed his class just before half-time when he tipped Seyed Jalal Hosseini’s powerful header over the bar while at the other end, Yacine Brahimi’s drive from inside the area was saved by Persepolis custodian Hamed Lak.
Persepolis started the second half with heightened intensity and their determination paid off two minutes into the restart when Kamal Kamyabinia headed home the equaliser off Torabi’s corner. Al Rayyan found themselves 2-1 down two minutes later as Siamak Nemati weaved his way down the right flank before finding Moghanlou, who volleyed past Younis.
Moghanlou scored his second in the 57th minute, finding space inside the six yard box to collect Omid Alishah’s pass before slamming the ball into an unguarded goalmouth. With the job done, Persepolis will now turn their focus to FC Goa on Tuesday while Al Rayyan will seek their first win against Al Wahda.
Al Wahda, FC Goa tie ends in stalemate
In an earlier match, FC Goa maintained their unbeaten start to life in the AFC Champions League as Juan Ferrando’s tournament debutants held Al Wahda from the United Arab Emirates to a 0-0 draw in their Group E meeting. The draw followed the club’s goalless clash with Rayyan while Al Wahda picked up their first point of the campaign, having lost their first fixture against Persepolis.
Neither side was able to make much of an impact during the opening quarter of the game and it took until the 23rd minute for Al Wahda defender Fares Jumaa to trouble Dheeraj Singh, the robust central defender finding the FC Goa goalkeeper’s arms with a downward header.
The side from the UAE increased the tempo as the half wore on but were unable to find the finishing touch to some improved approach play. Ismaeil Matar’s intelligent, quickly taken free-kick found Khalil Ibrahim, only to see his cutback towards the penalty spot cleared.
Tim Matavz forced Dheeraj Singh into action a minute before the break when he hit Omar Khrbin’s pass first-time towards goal and four minutes later the Slovenian saw an attempt from much closer range blocked by the home defence.
Al Wahda cranked up the pressure in the second half, with Lucas Pimenta sending his header wide before Khrbin was left frustrated when he nodded Ibrahim’s cross from the right into the arms of a grateful Dheeraj Singh.
The club from Abu Dhabi was almost to rue that miss 17 minutes from time when Brandon Fernandes latched on to Jorge Ortiz’s ball behind the defence, sending in a low first-time cross that Devendra Murgaokar met with his right foot but which Mohamed al-Shamsi palmed away.
Matar then saw his free-kick kept out by Singh while Glan Martins saw his long range drive at the other end deflected wide of the Al Wahda goal before Dheeraj Singh twice denied Khrbin in the dying moments to ensure the points were shared.
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