x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Al Ain off to a losing start

Artur Gevorkyan's solitary goal was enough for the Uzbekistan club Pakhtakor to blow away Al Ain's hopes of making a winning return in the Asian Champions League.

Odil Ahmedov of Pakhtakor Tashkent beats Saif Mohammed of Al Ain.
Odil Ahmedov of Pakhtakor Tashkent beats Saif Mohammed of Al Ain.

AL AIN // Artur Gevorkyan's solitary goal was enough for the Uzbekistan club Pakhtakor to blow away Al Ain's hopes of making a winning return in the Asian Champions League (ACL) at the Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium. The diminutive Turkmenistan midfielder sent a neat low shot between two defenders and out of the reach of the goalkeeper Waleed Salem on the hour against the 2003 ACL winners, who were making a return to the competition after a two year absence. Pakhtakor, twice semi-finalists and the only club to have played in all eight stagings of the ACL, were well organised in the defence and were effective on the counter attack. Ain had one shot at goal from a 25-yard free kick Jorge Valdivia that was punched away by Temur Jureav in the dying minutes of the game. The visitors tested the Ain goal in the second minute after a flowing move down the left flank. Asqar Jadigerov sent a cross and the captain Odil Ahmedov timed his run in connecting with a powerful header, but the goalkeeper Salem did well to keep that out by tipping it over the crossbar. It could have made all the difference as Ain mounted their challenge by attacking for most of the first half without much conviction. Ali al Wehaibi's effort on the near post was smothered by the Serb defender Bojan Miladinovic in the 10th minute and a second shot from the same spot did not have the sting to beat Jureav after 30 minutes. The taller and speedier Uzbeki side adapted a more organised defensive strategy for the rest of the half, coming into their own in the second with some fine counter-attacking work. After Gevorkyan's goal, they closed shop and Al Ain were left with little ideas in breaking them down until the final minute. Valdivia, the Chilean midfielder and captain, played a more attacking role in the absence of the Brazilian forward Marcio Emerson, who was ruled out with a shoulder injury he suffered against Al Jazira in the Pro League last week. The South Korean Lee Ho came in for Emerson.

apassela@thenational.ae