Lekhwiya pay the penalty

March 13, 2014 - 1:54:05 am

UAE’s Al Ahli player Grafite Ismail Al Hammadi (right) challenges Qatar’s Al Sadd’s Khalfan Ibrahim (centre) for the ball during their AFC Champions League Group D match at the Al Ahli Stadium in Dubai, yesterday.

Doha: Lekhwiya forward Sebastian Soria was left to rue his missed first half penalty as the Qatari side and Iran’s Tractorsazi Tabriz shared the points following a 0-0 draw in the AFC Champions League Group C fixture at Lekhwiya Sports Stadium here yesterday.

The Qatar international striker had a golden opportunity to open the scoring from the spot after just 15 minutes but he struck his penalty kick wide of Hamed Lak’s right-hand post.

An all-action affair between two evenly matched teams featured both sides hitting the woodwork, superlative saves from the goalkeepers, a disallowed goal and a sending off for Tabriz’s Mohammad Nosrati but crucially no goals.

In the other match involving the Qatar Stars League club side Al Sadd ended in an one-all draw. Brazilian striker Grafite netted midway through the second half to cancel out a superb first half opener from Nadir Belhadj as Emirati side Al Ahli and former champions Al Sadd shared a 1-1 draw.

Belhadj’s eye-catching 24th minute strike had given 2011 winners Al Sadd the lead at Rashid Stadium as the visitors looked to build on last month’s 3-1 home win over Iran’s Sepahan.

But Al Ahli picked up their first point in Group D as Grafite headed home eight minutes after the hour mark, with the home side unlucky not to claim all three points after having two goals ruled out either side of the Brazilian’s equaliser.

Meanwhile, Alessandro Diamanti came to Guangzhou Evergrande’s rescue once again on Wednesday as his first-half equaliser gave the AFC Champions League title-holders a 1-1 draw against Yokohama F. Marinos.

The 30-year-old Italian international, who inspired a stunning fightback from two goals down against Melbourne Victory in his tournament debut, buried a superbly struck free-kick to cancel out Jin Hanato’s opener.

New recruit Diamanti playing under ex-Italy manager Marcello Lippi, now has three goals in two appearances in the Asian competition, doing no harm to his chances of selection for the World Cup later this year.

However, the defending champions dropped their first points and they currently lie second in Group G on goal difference. Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors are narrowly ahead following their 2-2 draw with Victory.

In another Group D match, Iran’s Foolad Sepahan edged Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal 3-2, thanks to a stoppage time strike by Albanian Xhevahir Sukaj.

Sukaj’s compatriot Ervin Bulku had put the Iranian side ahead in the 17th minute, but Al Hilal scored twice in five minutes through Segundo Castillo and Thiago Neves to entertain hopes of a win. However, after Mehdi Sharifi scored the equaliser in the 72nd minute, Sukaj put paid to Al Hilal’s hopes with his late winner.

Earlier, Ulsan Hyundai extended their tournament-record winning streak to 11 matches, and Australia’s Western Sydney Wanderers celebrated their first ever victory in the competition. Newcomers Western Sydney beat China’s Guizhou Renhe 1-0, after striker Mark Bridge turned the ball in during a goalmouth scramble in the 10th minute and the A-League team held on for the win.

Earlier, in Melbourne, a first-half header from Nick Ansell gave Victory a barely deserved half-time lead but they went behind in three second-half minutes after a brace from Jeonbuk skipper Lee Dong-Gook. AGENCIES

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