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Al Ahli face Naft Tehran in quarterfinals of ACL

Al Ahli face Naft Tehran in quarterfinals of ACL

Red Knights drawn against Iranians in continental competition

By Alex Leach (senior Reporter)

Published: Fri 19 Jun 2015, 1:46 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 3:11 PM

Al Ahli will play away in the first leg on August 25, with the return at home scheduled for September 15. — KT file

Dubai — Al Ahli have been pitted against Iranian outfit Naft Tehran in the quarterfinals of the Asian Champions League (ACL) following the draw ceremony in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday. With no country protection or seeding in the last-eight phase, the Red Knights could have met Qatar’s Lekhwiya or one of their Romanian coach Cosmin Olaroiu’s former clubs in Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia.

However, with those two teams having been drawn together first up in the West Asian half of the draw, Ahli and Naft Tehran were left to fill the only two slots left from their continental zone.

On the opposite side of proceedings over in the east, Japanese club Kashiwa Reysol encounter China’s Guangzhou Evergrande, who used to be managed by former Red Knights defender and their one-time global ambassador/technical advisor Fabio Cannavaro.

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors face Gamba Osaka in the fourth and final quarterfinal clash to be drawn yesterday lunchtime.

Ahli will play away in the first leg on Tuesday, August 25th, with the return at home scheduled for Tuesday, September 15th.

The eventual winners will then play either Al Hilal or Lekhwiya over a two-legged semifinal on Tuesday, September 29th and Tuesday, October 20th respectively for a much-prized place in the ACL final. The final, which is also held over two legs — both home and away, is scheduled to take place on Saturday, November 7th and Saturday November 21st.

The UAE were guaranteed one representative in yesterday’s draw as the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) champions for the past four seasons, Al Ain (3) and Ahli (1), were drawn against each other in the round-of-16 phase.

It was Ahli who edged through on the away goals rule too, with their three goals at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium proving decisive in a 3-3 draw on aggregate after their initial tie at Rashid Stadium ended in a goalless stalemate.

Having seen off last season’s semifinalists in Zlatko Dalic’s men, Olaroiu’s squad should be confident of progressing even further still now as Naft Tehran finished as the Group B runners-up some four points behind The Boss in their qualifying pool. Naft Tehran lost two of their six Group B matches to third-placed Uzbek club Pakhtakor and Al Ain, who managed to take four points off of them overall following a 1-1 draw on the road and a 3-0 home victory.

Their two wins came against rock bottom Al Shabab from the back-to-back games in the middle sector and they also shared the spoils with Pakhtakor 1-1 at home.

Naft Tehran, like Ahli, also scraped through their first knockout clash. Holding a 1-0 first-leg lead over Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli, they lost the return 2-1 and were indebted to that invaluable away goal for their progression in the end.

Their opponents had finished above their UAE namesakes in Group D, where Olaroiu’s men finished second and level on eight points with Uzbekistan’s Nasaf.

However, they made it through on account of having the better of the head-to-head record between the two (a 0-0 draw at home and a 1-0 success on their travels).


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