x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Ahli off to worst possible start

After the sensational win over Al Jazira, Al Ahli were dreaming of getting their AFC Champions League campaign off to a winning start.

After the sensational win over Al Jazira, Al Ahli were dreaming of getting their AFC Champions League campaign off to a winning start. But Clederson Cesar's missed penalty and a nondescript performance from his Brazilian compatriot Jader Volnei Spindler put paid to their hopes and the hosts went down 1-2 to Pakhtakor. Odil Ahmedov opened the scores for the Uzbek visitors in the 22nd minute from the penalty spot and Zaynitdin Tadjiyev doubled the tally in the 67th minute. Hosny Abd Rabo scored in the 89th minute to raise the hopes of the home fans, but it was too little too late. Cesar had an opportunity to equalise in the 53rd minute when Ahli got a penalty, but the Brazilian's lethargic attempt was comfortably stopped by the Pakhtakor goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov, which pretty much summed up the South American's listless night. The hosts had made a promising start with Spindler coming close in the seventh minute after a well-worked one-two with Faisal Khalil, who has just been recalled to the UAE squad for their forthcoming World Cup qualifiers. Alexander Geynrikh, however, turned the tide in the 15th minute with a blistering run down the right. His stunning volley on the run hit the left post that rattled the Ahli defence. Seven minutes later Ildar Magdeev was brought down by Yousuf Jaber and captain Ahmedov converted from the spot. A similar infringement against Ismail al Hammadi gave Ahli a golden chance to level the scores in the 53rd minute, but Cesar kicked weakly into Nesterov. The escape saw Pakhtakor return with a vengeance and Zaynitdin Tadjiyev tapped in the winner in the 67th minute after a pinpoint cross from Geynrikh. Hosny managed to reduce the deficit in the 89th minute, but despite all the urgency in the closing moments, the hosts failed to find the equaliser.

arizvi@thenational.ae