Both teams churned out hard-fought victories against their respective oppositions…
Sharjah FC progressed to the Round of 16 of the AFC Champions League 2021 after defeating Iraq’s Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya 3-2 on Monday at the Sharjah Stadium. It was a historic night for the UAE Pro League club as they ensured their qualification to the knockout stages of the marquee club competition of the continent after a hiatus of 17 years.
However, the start wasn’t according to plan. In the 15th minute, the Iraqis drew first blood when Jefferson Collazos struck home on the rebound after goalkeeper Adel Al Hosani had made an initial save.
Sharjah soon bounced back though. 10 minutes later, Khalid Bawazir intercepted a pass from defender Ali Khadim in the attacking third and made no mistake in slotting the ball home to erase the deficit.
They continued their ascendancy and in the 35th minute, Bawazir sent a measured long ball for Salem Saleh who hammered home the second goal of the night for his team.
The Air Force club started the second half with more purpose and they equalised within seven minutes through Collazos. Shareef Abdulkadhim produced an exquisite through ball for the Colombian, who kept his calm to complete his brace.
But their joy was short-lived as Salem put Sharjah back in the lead with a thumping header after connecting to a cross from Ali Al Dhanhani. That goal was enough to help them notch all three points.
On the other hand, Al Wahda stopped Iranian outfit Persepolis’ winning-run by beating them 1-0 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in India. The Iranian side were on a four-match unbeaten run and were looking for their fifth straight win.
It was a commendable job from Henk ten Cate’s men as they had to take the field without their talisman, Ismail Matar, as the UAE international remains suspended for three games.
Meanwhile, Persepolis coach Yahya Golmohammadi made five changes to the starting XI that thrashed Indian side FC Goa 4-0 in their previous match.
Wahda took just five minutes to put their nose ahead when Slovenian forward Tim Matavz showed a clean pair of heels to defender Seyed Jalal Hosseini and smashed the ball into the net.
Ten Cate’s troops did not put a foot wrong in the first half and did exceedingly well to contain Persepolis. In fact, Omar Khibrin could have doubled the lead if Hamed Lak had not tipped his shot over the bar.
In the second half, the ACL runners-up turned on the heat and Ehsan Pahlavan beat Wahda’s shot-stopper Al Shamsi but was denied by the woodwork. It was one of the many chances that Persepolis created in their bid to get back into the match but lack of clinical finishing did not help their cause.
With this win, Wahda have one foot in the Round of 16 as they now have 10 points from five matches. However, Persepolis continue to lead the group with 12 points.