Qatar’s Lekhwiya hit groove in Doha, down Al Jazira

DOHA: Moroccan international Youssef al-Arabi registered a brace as Qatar giants Lekhwiya downed UAE’s Al Jazira 3-0 on the opening day of the Asian Champions League on Monday.
Lekhwiya, who lately have experienced a slight slump in form in the domestic Qatar Stars League, hit their groove from the very outset to put the top UAE side under pressure and emerged deserving winners on a chilly evening in Doha.
The Qatari giants struck in the 11th minute of their group B opener when al-Arabi found himself nicely placed inside the box to head the ball home after it was passed to him by Youssef Msakni, who was sent clear on the right by Karim Boudiaf.
Lekhwiya continued to enjoy the upper hand without adding to their tally as Al Jazira defended well, but the final 10 minutes presented the hosts with plenty of chances as the game opened up.
Tunisian Msakni added the second goal in the 80th minute, scoring from close range past Al Jazira goalkeeper Ali Khaseif off a pass from South Korean Nam Tae-hee.
Al-Arabi, a prolific scorer in the Qatar Stars League, then put the issue beyond doubt with a 90th minute strike following an assist from Ali Hassan Afif.
It completed a humiliating outing for Al Jazira who flew to Doha with a tall reputation, having won their last eight games in the UAE Pro League to lead the standings by a whopping nine points.
“Full credit to the boys. We had our issues with injury and form but they delivered when it mattered,” said an elated Lekhwiya coach Djamel Belmadi.
“We knew that Al Jazira were on a winning streak in UAE and we were prepared to put up a fight against them, but in the end we ended up far better,’ he added.
In another group B match played in Muscat, Iran’s Estehglal Kouzestan defeated Saudi Arabia’s Al Fateh 1-0, with Abolfazl Alaei’s 80th minute header clinching the winner.
Estehglal Kouzestan, who are making their Asian Champions League debut, dominated for much of the match but could only manage to breach the Al Fateh defence late in the tie when Alaei rose high to head home Peyman Shirzadi’s corner.
In group A, last year’s runners-up Al Ahli of the UAE edged out Iran’s Estheglal 2-1 with Makhete Diop scoring a double for the winning team.
Omid Ebrahimi had equalised for Estheglal with an excellent volley 16 minutes from time after Al Ahli had taken the lead just at the stroke of half time.
But Senegalese striker Diop was on target in the dying moments with a header for Cosmin Olaroiu’s side.
Also in group A, Al Tawoon of Saudi Arabia defeated Uzbekistan’s Lokomotiv 1-0, with Talal al-Absi netting the winner. — AFP