Lima stoops to conquer

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Naft’s Arash Rezavand (right) vies for the ball with Al Ahli’s Majed Hassan during their AFC Champions League quarterfinal in Tehran.
Naft's Arash Rezavand (right) vies for the ball with Al Ahli's Majed Hassan during their AFC Champions League quarterfinal in Tehran.

Dubai - Brazilian continues to impress as Al Ahli outlast Naft in Tehran

By Alex Leach

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Published: Thu 27 Aug 2015, 11:01 PM

Al Ahli have one foot in the Asian Champions League (ACL) semifinals after Lima's second-half header ensured they came away from the first leg of this last-eight tie against Naft Tehran with a 1-0 victory on Wednesday evening.
The Red Knights now need only to play out a goalless or score draw in the return encounter at Rashid Stadium on Wednesday, September 16 to progress to the semis having secured this shutout and slender success in the Iranian capital.
Clear-cut chances were few and far between during a decidedly uneventful opening 45 minutes. The home side appeared content just to pop the ball around at a leisurely pace among their back four initially.
That tentative tactic was perhaps symptomatic of a team that is yet to register a single victory from four attempts in their own league and indicative of one understandably reluctant to concede a costly away goal in the early exchanges.
There was much more intent, purpose and zip about the visitors' approach and attacking play, but that came as no surprise considering they fired in eight against Fujairah last Wednesday.
Naft had the first real sight of goal on 18 minutes when a partially-cleared right-sided corner was returned back swiftly into the penalty box and fell invitingly for Ali Reza Ezati, who blazed haplessly over Ahmed Mahmoud's (aka 'Dida's') crossbar.
Ali Reza Mansourian's men then appealed for a penalty midway through the first half as livewire forward Payam Sadeghian was body-checked inside the 18-yard area by Majed Hassan.
Those vociferous appeals were waved away though and Ahli progressively began to threaten more as the match action wore on.
Ahmed Khalil led a breakaway counter-attack just after the half hour mark and he cut back inside to pick out Ismail Al Hammadi.
However, the UAE winger hastily fired his attempt wildly off target in much the same way Ezati had done at the other end. In hindsight, Everton Ribeiro on the overlap was arguably a better option for Khalil from the very outset.
This last-eight tie then sprung to life just prior to the half-time whistle. Vahid Amiry was denied by a great, last-ditch tackle from Abdulaziz Haikal and Arash Rezavind collected the clearance and hit the deck all too easily near to Salmeen Khamis.
The Red Knights, in turn, broke rapidly and Everton Ribeiro swung in a left-footed centre that compatriot Lima could only head agonisingly wide of Naft's net.
It was a gilt-edged opportunity the 32-year-old forward really should have buried, yet he made amends for that miss with the opener just after the hour mark.
That man Ribeiro again clipped in a curling left-sided corner that Habib Fardan flicked on at the near post and an unmarked Lima stooped to nod home.
Naft came close to drawing level eight minutes later as Ezati crept in unattended to connect with Abbas Bozar's drilled free-kick.
Nonetheless, he couldn't divert the ball goalwards and his misdirected header floated beyond Jalal Hosseini's outstretched boot.
A stinging Khalil free-kick and a well-struck drive from second-half substitute Oussama Assaidi could have doubled Ahli's advantage in the final quarter of an hour.
The one-goal cushion still represented an excellent night's work all the same for those in red.
Asian Champions League quarterfinal, first leg scores:
Kashiwa Reysol (Japan) 1-3 Guangzhou (China)
Al Hilal (Saudi Arabia) 4-1 Lekhwiya (Qatar)
Jeonbuk Hyundai (South Korea) 0-0 Gamba (Japan)
Naft Tehran (Iran) 0-1 Al Ahli (UAE)

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