Al Ain, led by Omar Abdulrahman, learn from mistakes to earn late win at Bunyodkor
Bunyodkor 2 Al Ain 3
Bunyodkor: Cemirtan (10’), Khamdamov (43’)
Al Ain: Omar Abdulrahman (8’, 89’), Caio (15’)
Man of the match: Omar Abdulrahman (Al Ain)
Red card: Komilov (Bunyodkor)
Two swishes of Omar Abdulrahman’s left foot, one early and the other very late, and Al Ain’s 2017 Asian Champions League campaign was properly up and running.
The UAE club, Asian Champions League winners in 2003 and runners-up last year, opened their new Group C account seven days ago with a lacklustre 1-1 draw at home to Iran’s Zobahan, a couple of points spurned because of their wastefulness in front of goal.
So on Matchday Two, and against Uzbekistan’s Bunyodkor in Tashkent, Al Ain resolved to find a quick fix. It began as early as the eighth minute, when captain Omar Abdulrahman decided to take matters into his own hands and curled a 20-yard free-kick past Murod Zukhurov in the home goal. The current Asian player of the year, who in the aftermath of the Zobahan result had urged his team to start taking their chances, was himself up and running in continent’s leading club competition.
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Yet Al Ain quickly conceded. Moments after the restart, Dostonbek Khamdamov was afforded too much space behind the visitors’ defence and, with only Khalid Essa to beat, he directed his shot onto the post. Luckily for Bunyodkor, Vadim Cemirtan was on hand to head home the rebound.
Fortunately for Al Ain, Caio rediscovered his shooting boots minutes later. The Brazilian had been the chief culprit against Zobahan last week, often firing off-target when presented with a sight of goal, yet he needed only one opportunity to make amends. This time, he struck Nasser Al Shamrani’s flick-on with conviction past Zukhurov to restore Al Ain’s advantage. Only a quarter of an hour had elapsed.
By half time, the score was 2-2. Al Ain committed men forward on 43 minutes, meaning Bunyodkor could break fast and, when the ball found Cemirtan on the left wing, the forward provided the perfect cross for Khamdamov to finish emphatically.
The second half was another even affair, with both sides searching for the win, although Bunyodkor’s task got more difficult once defender defender Akramjon Komilov picked up a second booking in the 72nd minute. Almost immediately, Caio who went close for Al Ain, the winger arching his long-range effort towards Bunyodkor’s top corner only to find Zukhurov equal to it.
Then, with two minutes remaining, Caio was felled in the Bunyodkor area. With the hosts still contesting the decision - it appeared harsh - Abdulrahman coolly stroked home the penalty.
Al Ain had snatched a late, late victory, and snuck three points to go with last week’s one. Suddenly, everything is rosy again in the Garden City.
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