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Al Jazira draw Esteghlal, stay unbeaten

James Jose (james@khaleejtimes.com)
Filed on March 20, 2014
Al Jazira draw Esteghlal, stay unbeaten

Esteghlal rallied twice to hold the former UAE champions. Despite the draw, Al Jazira, who are unbeaten, still remain top of Group A with seven points, while Esteghlal stay at the bottom.


Al Jazira’s Ahmed Rabia Gheilani (left) fights for the ball with Esteghlal’s Khosro Heidari. — AFP

Al Jazira’s Ahmed Rabia Gheilani (left) fights for the ball with Esteghlal’s Khosro Heidari. — AFP

Moroccan midfielder Abdelaziz Barrada netted a double but Al Jazira were held to a 2-2 draw by Iran’s Esteghlal in the AFC Champions League at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran, Iran, late on Tuesday night.

Esteghlal rallied twice to hold the former UAE champions. Despite the draw, Al Jazira, who are unbeaten, still remain top of Group A with seven points, while Esteghlal stay at the bottom.

Abdelaziz Barrada put Al Jazira ahead as early as the sixth minute but Esteghlal cancelled that out through Mohammad Ghazi on 17 minutes. Al Jazira took the lead again through Barrada on 56 minutes. But Hanif Omranzadeh equalised for Esteghlal on 65 minutes.

Walter Zenga’s men made their intentions clear and took the lead on six minutes. Felipe Caicedo shook off Amirhossein Sadeghi before setting it up for Barrada, who slotted his left-footer past Esteghlal captain and goalkeeper Mahdi Rahmati.

But Esteghlal equalised on 17 minutes through Ghazi, who headed home after a Khosro Heydari cross from the right.

Al Jazira could have retaken the lead before half-time but Abdulla Mousa effort from close range, was kept out by Rahmati.

They did take the lead again on 56 minutes as Barrada sent it past Rahmati after an assist from Abdulla Qasem.

Al Jazira looked to be heading to a third win in as many games but Esteghlal, egged on by their fans, denied the Abu Dhabi club. Omranzadeh popped up to head home off a corner from substitute Iman Mobali.

Al Jazira thought they had retaken the lead when Caicedo slotted it home on 75 minutes but the goal was ruled off-side.

At the other end, goalkeeper Ali Khaseif did well to keep out Hashem Beikzadeh’s curling shot. Ali Khaseif was called into action again in stoppage time as he brilliantly saved Boubacar Kebe attempt.

Zenga was an happy Italian despite the draw. “It was a very good game and I would like to give congratulations to my players. They played absolutely without fear and they could have come out victorious. We played well in front and also played well in defence. I don’t think we had any problems back there,” said Zenga.

But he remained cautious and urged his players to keep at it. “We are in a great group with fantastic teams. And although we have played against all of them, we’re just halfway through our mission,” added the Italian.

“We haven’t done anything yet since we have to play against all these teams again and try to achieve what we want,” he said.

Meanwhile, Esteghlal coach Amir Ghalenoei was disappointed. “We got a point at home, but it’s not enough for us. If we wanted to have a better position in the table, we should have won the game tonight,” Ghalenoei said.

“We have been very unlucky in this year’s competition. We seem to have a lot of difficulty scoring but concede easily. Al Jazira had three opportunities and scored twice, but we had so many more chances but could only score two goals as well. I believe my players tried their best, but I regret the mistakes our defenders made and all the chances we missed during the match,” he added.

Al Jazira’s next assignment in the Asian competition is on April 2 when they host Esteghlal in the return leg at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.





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