ABU DHABI // Fares Juma's late equaliser threw Al Jazira a lifeline in their bid to qualify for the knockout stages of the Asian Champions League.
Juma leapt high above the visiting defence to knock in a free kick from Sultan Abdulaziz for his team to salvage a 1-1 draw against Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia last night at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.
Hilal’s Brazilian forward Ailton scored an early goal and it looked enough for the visitors to return with full points until Juma’s strike at the death left them shattered.
Jazira’s resolve drew praise from their coach, Henk ten Cate, who said: “As I said earlier, we had to squeeze out everything, like out of an orange, from the players to get this result,.
“We had tired players, injuries and suspensions, despite all the odds against us, we still managed to win a point.
“This result is for the players. They played their heart out in this game.”
The draw gives Ten Cate’s side their first point in three continental matches, although they remain rooted firmly to the bottom of Group C, five points behind leaders Tractor Sazi with three matches left.
Jazira could not have got off to a worse start as they fell behind inside nine minutes.
Ailton picked up a short pass from Yasir Al Shahrani, dribbled his way inside the Jazira area and fired a low shot past the goalkeeper Khaled Al Senani to the far corner of the net.
The visitors continued to fashion the best chances of the opening half. South Korean Kwak Taeh-wi saw his long-range effort crash against the post and a couple of close range headers from Ailton and Yasser Al Qahtani were both just wide of the target.
Jazira had their chances too. Musallem Fayez should really have done better with Hilal goalkeeper well out of position, but ballooned the ball over the crossbar.
Ali Mabkhout slipped and nosedived after Thiago Neves set him up with a through pass inside the area.
Hilal’s Greek coach, Giorgios Donis, said his side were punished for their profligacy in front of goal.
“I say something what we say in our country ‘Our blood wasn’t boiling’ in this game,” Donis said.
“We were sleeping. I feel disappointed for our fans. We created many scoring chances but couldn’t score. The result wasn’t fair for us because we created more scoring chances. It was fair for Jazira because they were fighting.”
The point keeps Hilal in second place in the group on five points. In the group’s other match played last night, Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor beat leaders Tractor Sazi through an Igor Sergeev strike.
Nilmar double gifts Al Nasr 2-1 win over Al Ittihad
Al Nasr moved top of Group A with a deserved 2-1 victory against Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah.
The Dubai club got off to the perfect start when Nilmar scored in the opening minute, racing on to Amir Mubarak‘s long ball and slotting a low shot past Assaf Al Qarni, the Ittihad goalkeeper.
However, the hosts drew level 12 minutes later through Venezuelan forward Gelmin Rivas’s opportune strike. Nasr grabbed the winner on 74 minutes, though, Nilmar swivelling in the Ittihad penalty area and firing beyond Al Qarni.
As a result, Nasr head the pool at the halfway stage, with six points from three matches.
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