Al Ain crashed out of the Asian Champions League last night after a hat-trick from Odil Ahmedov set up a home win for Pakhtakor in Group C. Ahmedov scored twice within two minutes in a 28-minute treble to give Pakhtakor a 3-2 lead just before the half-hour mark, an advantage which they preserved until the end of the match to take their tally to nine points in the group that also include Al Shabab of Saudi Arabia and Iran's Sepahan. Goals rained in the first quarter of the match after Jorge Valdivia had opened the scoring in the second minute. Pakhtakor replied with Ahmedov's double strike in the 11th and 12th minutes.
Ahmedov first hammered home a ball that fell into his path in front of a crowded goalmouth and was set up for his second by Alexandre Geynrikh, who caught the entire Al Ain defence napping in the very next move. Ilhomjon Suyonov turned Marco Emerson's cross into his own net for Al Ain's equaliser in the 19th minute. But it did not last long as Ahmedov completed the hat-trick nine minutes later when he tapped in a poor clearance from Waleed Salem, the Al Ain goalkeeper.
Al Ain could have returned with a point and still be in the competition had Emerson been on target with a spot kick in the 73rd minute. The Brazilian's effort was well saved by Temur Juraev, diving to his right. Emerson was sent off for striking the ball with his palm on his run through to beat Juraev in added time. "We were in the game until the end but some silly mistakes at the back cost us the game," said Toninho Cerezo, the Al Ain coach, in a post-match television interview. "We were not lucky enough, like the previous game against the Saudi club Al Shabab."
Al Ain were leading 2-1 against Shabab and lost 3-2 in the previous match, and having drawn first blood last night, they faltered because of some lacklustre work at the back. The 2003 winners of the ACL were the only Pro League side that had any hope of progressing in the tournament until last night, and with their exit, all four representatives from the UAE have failed to go beyond the group stage for the second successive year.
* Compiled by Amith Passela, with agencies