HONG KONG: Uzbek giants Bunyodkor crashed to a third successive defeat in the Asian Champions League when they were beaten 2-0 at home by Iran’s Zobahan on Monday.
The Tashkent-based are still without a point in Group C after suffering earlier losses to Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli and the UAE’s Al Ain, leaving them with a mountain to climb in order to secure qualification for the next stage.
They also remain winless in their past 17 continental matches with this result.
Goals from Jerry Bengtson and Morteza Tabrizi ensured a first win for Zobahan as Bunyodkor failed to come up with the answers both in attack and defence.
After a scrappy first half, the Iranians went ahead through Honduran Bengtson, who coolly slotted past goalkeeper Murotjon Zukhurov from the centre of the box in the 55th minute on an assist from Mahdi Mahdipour.
Bunyodkor suffered a big blow to their chances of a revival when forward Vadim Cemirtan was red-carded for a dangerous foul on Danial Emaeilifar shortly after the hour mark.
Both sides struggled to score after that, but late in stoppage time Tabrizi converted a penalty to seal the outcome after Alisher Sanoev had committed a foul in the area.
In the other Group C match, defender Aqeel al-Sahabi found himself going from hero to villain within the span of a half hour as Saudi Arabian champions Al Ahli were held 2-2 by 2016 runners-up Al Ain of the UAE.
Al-Sahabi put the hosts ahead in the 26th minute with an outrageous flick that looped into the net, but former AFC Player of the Year Nassir al-Shamrani levelled just two minutes later with a clinical finish.
Ioannis Fetfatzidis put Al Ahli back in front from a difficult angle after Al Ain goalkeeper Khalid Eisa lost the ball in the box in the 50th minute, but al-Sahabi’s own goal just two minutes later ensured the teams walked away with a point each.
Meanwhile, Iran’s Esteghlal beate another Uzbek side, Lokomotiv Tashkent, 2-0 in Group A.
Farshid Esmaeili put Esteghlal ahead in the 37th minute with a low shot following a corner and Ali Ghorbani consolidated their lead in the 84th minute from an assist by Milad Zakipour.
The result moves Esteghlal three points clear of Lokomotiv in Group A ahead of their return fixture in Tashkent next month.
Al Ahli of the UAE and Saudi Arabia’s Al Tawoon drew 0-0.