DUBAI: Khamis Esmail claimed a crucial away goal for Al-Ahli of the United Arab Emirates in a draw with their Saudi namesakes, while Esteghlal left it late for a 1-0 victory over Al Ain in the first leg of the round of 16 Champions League on Monday (Tuesday in Manila).
Against the run of play, Esmail netted in the 20th minute to put his side in front after the home defense failed to clear Everton Ribiero’s free kick.
A scuffed shot from just inside the area deflected off the outstretched leg of goalkeeper Yasser al-Mosailem and into the goal.
But Abdulfattah Asiri, latching on to Mohamed Abdelshafi’s through ball, levelled the scores 18 minutes later to leave the tie finely poised ahead of next week’s return meeting in Dubai.
Esteghlal will take a narrow one-goal advantage into their second leg after Alireza Mansourian’s side won a feisty clash in Iran.
Rezaei netted from the penalty spot two minutes into injury time after Al Ain midfielder Lee Myung-joo had handled the ball at the end of a game that saw both teams reduced to 10 men in the final 15 minutes.
Saeed Juma was given his marching orders 13 minutes from time for a scything challenge on Seyed Mohsen Karimi that saw Chinese referee Fu Ming give the midfielder a straight red card, while eight minutes later Farshid Esmaeili was sent off for retaliating against Al Ain striker Caio following an off-the-ball tussle between the two.
Esmaelil had the better of the few opportunities to fall to either team in open play during a tense game at the Azadi Stadium, with the striker finding the hands of Khalid Eisa with efforts in the second and 65th minutes before Rezaei’s spot kick earned the Iranians a slim advantage ahead of the return in Al Ain next week.