AFC - Qatar's Al Duhail turned on the power in the second half to beat Esteghlal FC from Islamic Republic of Iran 3-0 in their opening 2019 AFC Champions League Group C tie on Tuesday.
The home side came racing off the blocks, and nearly got their opening goal within 60 seconds of kick-off. Luiz Junior intercepted the ball in midfield and supplied Shoya Nakajima who advanced down the left and struck from a narrow angle. The Japanese’s shot was saved by Mehdi Rahmati.
Centre-back Ahmed Yasser tested the goalkeeper from distance. His powerful strike seemed destined for the top corner, but Rahmati tipped it behind in the 12th minute.
Al Duhail nearly broke the deadlock just before the break through Nakajima who took Bassam Al Rawi’s cushioned header first-time from the edge of the box but could not find the back of the net.
Rui Faria’s men came out from the dressing room a different side, taking the game to their opponents and soon taking the lead.
Benatia marked his AFC Champions League debut with a goal, heading home Murad Naji’s cross to open the scoring for Al Duhail in the 56th minute.
Top scorer Youssef El Arabi doubled the Qatari side’s lead in the 74th minute. The Moroccan latched onto a Nakajima through pass and rounded the goalkeeper before slotting into an empty net to make it 2-0.
Esteghlal’s frustration grew with their inability to break the Qatari defence and they resorted to shooting from range. Captain Pejman Montazeri tried his luck but his effort sailed wide.
Substitute Ali Afif sealed victory with the third goal after a swift counter attack. The Qatari international midfielder embarked on a 50-yard jinking run and then exchanged a one-two with Nakajima that left him with a simple tap in in added time.
Al Duhail travel to Saudi Arabia to face Al Hilal on Matchday Two, while Esteghlal welcome Al Ain to Tehran next Tuesday.
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