Lekhwiya begin ACL campaign with a win

February 27, 2013 - 7:14:09 am

Dame Traore (left) of Qatar’s Lekhwiya fights for the ball with Hassan Safar of UAE’s Al-Shabab during their AFC Champions League match at the Abdulla Bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha, yesterday. Lekhwiya won 2-1.

DOHA: First-half goals from Sebastian Soria and Youssef Msakni secured Qatar Stars League champions Lekhwiya a 2-1 comeback victory over AFC Champions League play-off winners Shabab Al Arabi at Lekhwiya Sports Stadium yesterday.

Edgar’s early opener had put UAE Pro League side Shabab Al Arabi, who beat Iran’s Sabaye Qom on penalties earlier this month to earn a place in the group stage for a second consecutive season, on course to spoil Lekhwiya’s night at their new home.

But after Qatar international Soria pulled Lekhwiya level, a free-kick from Tunisia forward Msakni 12 minutes before the break ultimately proved the difference in the Group B opener as Lekhwiya followed up last year’s opening day success over eventual finalists Al Ahli.

Having won their play-off in Iran, Al Shabab Al Arabi enjoyed more success on their travels as Brazilian striker Edgar (Edgar Bruno da Silva) turned home Azizbek Haydarov’s cross at the second attempt after just 11 minutes after the initial chested effort had been saved by Lekhwiya goalkeeper Baba Malick.

Lekhwiya, though, responded just nine minutes later with Soria on hand to turn home an inviting cross from Senegalese midfielder Issiar Dia.

And the home side completed the comeback 12 minutes before half-time when a free-kick from Tunisia international Msakni beat Shabab Al Arabi goalkeeper Salim Al Hammadi via the upright.

Al Shabab Al Arabi pressed for an equaliser in the second half but Lekhwiya remained resolute in defence.

Yesterday, another Qatar Stars League side Eljaish were not so lucky. 

The Razvan Lucescu coached side lost to Saudi Arabia’s Al Shabab 2-0 in the Group A match in Riyadh.

An own goal in the 33rd minute from Anderson Martins and a second one six minutes later by Omar Al Ghamdi sealed the fate of the Qatari club.

In another Group A match, Tractorsazi Tabriz began their maiden campaign in the AFC Champions League in impressive fashion with a 3-1 win over Al Jazira of UAE.

Meanwhile, Marcello Lippi’s Guangzhou Evergrande swept aside Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds 3-0 in an AFC Champions League opener crackling with political tensions and played under heavy security yesterday.

As the Asian competition got underway with goals and an outlandish “Panenka” penalty, the Chinese double-holders began their campaign in ominous style as they dispatched the 2007 winners at home.

Chinese media said 11,000 police and security were deployed to prevent any flare-up in nationalist violence. 

But Lucas Barrios’s 16th-minute opener helped calm the atmosphere and Muriqui weighed in with a second goal after half-time. At the death, Keita Suzuki put the ball into his own net to make it an emphatic start for Guangzhou.

Fellow Chinese team Jiangsu Sainty had a rude introduction to the competition when they were hammered 5-1 in their debut outing by K-League champions FC Seoul, who will have their own claims on the Asian title.

Buriram United, rocked last week by claims that their Thai FA Cup final win against Army United was targeted by match-fixers, started positively when they came back from a goal down to draw Japan’s Vegalta Sendai 1-1 away.

At Nonthaburi’s Thunderdome Stadium, fellow Thai team Muangthong United also earned a priceless draw when they twice came from behind to draw 2-2 with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, the 2006 winners and 2011 runners-up.

Muangthong went 1-0 down to an early Lee Dong-Gook penalty but they equalised on the stroke of half-time courtesy of Mario Djurovski’s sublime “Panenka”, chipped-down-the-middle spot-kick.

Belgian forward Kevin Oris looked to have stolen the points for the visitors on 77 minutes but Muangthong’s South Korean import Kim Yoo-Jin had the last word when his header found the net via a Jeonbuk defender with just two minutes to go.