Shabab Al Ahli held by Turkmenistan debutants Ahal in AFC Champions League opener

Dubai club’s Uzbek midfielder Azizjon Ganiev scores equaliser on Thursday

File photo of Shabab Al-Ahli. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Shabab Al Ahli salvaged a draw against the AFC Champions League debutant Ahal FC of Turkmenistan at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah on the opening night of the competition on Thursday.

Abdy Bashimov broke the deadlock for Ahal in the 75thh minute but their joy was short-lived as the Dubai club’s Uzbek midfielder Azizjon Ganiev levelled the scores from a spot kick four minutes later.

It left all four teams in Group C on a point each following goalless result between Iranian side Foolad Khuzestan and Al Gharafa of Qatar at the Prince Abdullah Al Faisal stadium on the same night.

Playing against a side they knew little about, Shabab Al Ahli went on the offensive from the outset.

Harib Abdalla Al Maazmi whipped in a cross that was well defended by Shohrat Soyunov against Mohammad Juma and Mohammed Marzooq was wide with a close range effort.

Foolad's forward Sasan Ansari, left, Al Gharafa's defender Tameem Almuhaza vie for the ball during their AFC Champions League match. AFP

Mahdi Ali’s side continued to dominate possession and had their sights on goal after the half hour mark when Majed Hassan slipped a brilliant through ball to Juma whose shot took a big deflection that was saved by Rasul Charyyev.

Harib Abdalla then sent the defender the wrong way before letting loose a low shot directly at Charyyev to end the first half in deadlock.

Ahal began the second half stronger with Ata Geldiyev heading from a corner just wide of the post and moments later Tagayev hit the inside of the post with a left footed shot from a free-kick.

The Turkmenistan side was rewarded when Geldiyev glanced his header into the path of Bashimov, who made no mistake from close range to score his side’s first goal in the continental showpiece to spark wild celebrations in their camp.

However, their joy was short-lived as Ganiev converted from the penalty for the equaliser after Shabab Al Ahli’s Norwegian forward Thomas Olsen was brought down by Ybrayym Mammedow.

In the other games, Iranian side Sepahan outclassed Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor 3-1 and Saudi Arabia’s Al Taawoun overcame Al Duhail of Qatar 2-1, both in Group D.

Updated: April 08, 2022, 8:24 AM