Sharjah's hopes of reaching the AFC Asian Champions League knockout round were dealt a huge blow Tuesday as the UAE club lost 3-1 to Al Rayyan of Qatar 3-1 at the King Fahd International Stadium.
The defending champions Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia thumped the winless Istiklol of Turkmenistan 3-0 to take their tally to a perfect 12 points. Rayyan's win takes them second on seven points followed by Sharjah on four with only two games to go.
It means Sharjah would realistically have to win their remaining games and hope Rayyan drop points to hope to qualify as one of the best runners-up in the group phase.
Rayyan took the lead on 12 minutes when Mohammed Jumaa’s cross was deflected into his own net by Sharjah defender Salem Sultan.
Sharjah responded in spectacular fashion when a moment of individual brilliance by Caio Lucas put the UAE Pro League side back into the game six minutes later.
The Brazilian ran down the middle before sending a curling effort from inside the area to beat the Rayyan goalkeeper Fahad Younis.
Caio failed to almost added to his tally on the half-hour but sent his effort just over the crossbar, while Rayyan’s Yohan Boli saw his close range effort saved by goalkeeper Adel Al Hosani eight minutes later.
Rayyan’s regained the lead in the 39th minute when Steven N'zonzi headed in Yacine Brahimi’s corner.
Sharjah started the second half aggressively but couldn’t convert their chances with Salem Saleh seeing his effort saved from inside the box while Otabek Shukurov botched his effort moments later.
Luanzinho conceded a penalty after bringing down Hashim Ali inside the area for Brahimi to step forward and coolly convert from the spot to just past the hour to make it 3-1 to Rayyan.
Sharjah next face Hilal on Saturday while Rayyan meet Istiklol on the same night.