Brazilian winger Caio Lucas inspires Sharjah to huge win in Asian Champions League

A 4-1 victory over Pakhtakor lifts the Emirati side four points clear at halfway stage of qualifying

Sharjah took a huge step towards the Asian Champions League knockout stages on Tuesday night with a 4-1 win against Pakhtakor.

The 2018/19 UAE champions, already top of Group B, saw off their Uzbekistan opponents at Sharjah Stadium thanks to a Caio Lucas-inspired display.

The Brazilian winger, a 2016 finalist with Al Ain, registered a brilliant assist and scored a fine solo effort, while he was heavily involved in Sharjah’s other two goals.

The victory lifted the Emirati side to seven points, four points clear of second-placed Tractor FC at the halfway stage. Only the group winners are guaranteed to progress to the last 16. Each pool’s matches are played in centralised hubs, with Sharjah selected to host Group B.

It took the home side only 10 minutes to grab the lead against Pakhtakor, with Caio’s free-kick parried to Khalid Bawazir, who tapped the ball into the empty net. It marked the midfielder’s second goal of the tournament.

The visitors pulled level 11 minutes later, when Sharjah goalkeeper Adel Al Hosani was unfortunate to find the rebound from his excellent save fall to Dragan Ceran to pounce right on the goalline.

Pakhtakor's midfielder Khojimat Erkinov (3rd-R) is marked by Sharjah's midfielder Luanzinho (2nd-R) and Sharjah's defender Shahin Abdulrahman (C) during the AFC Champions League group B match between UAE's Sharjah FC and Uzbekistan's Pakhtakor on April 20, 2021, at the Sharjah football stadium in the Emirati city. / AFP / Karim SAHIB
Pakhtakor's midfielder Khojimat Erkinov (3R) is marked by Sharjah's midfielder Luanzinho (2R) and defender Shahin Abdulrahman (c). AFP

However, Sharjah were soon back in the lead, courtesy of Caio’s surge through a number of Pakhtakor players. He then squared expertly to Salem Saleh, who had the easiest of finishes.

Not long after the hour, Caio doubled his team’s advantage. Having been played through out wide by Bawazir, he raced towards goal and finished well past Uzbek goalkeeper Sanjar Kuvvatov.

Sharjah then made safe the points a few minutes later, when Luan Pereira’s ambitious effort from range took a heavy deflection before nestling in the net. The two sides meet again on Friday in Match Day 4.

Elsewhere, Al Wahda breathed life back into their Group E campaign, with a rousing, come-from-behind win against Qatar’s Al Rayyan in Goa.

The Abu Dhabi club found themselves two goals down not long after half-time at the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, but rallied superbly to turn the match on its head. Goals from Maayed Al Ruwais and Khalil Ibrahim looked to have secured a draw for Wahda, only for defender Fares Juma to rise unmarked from a corner deep into injury-time and seal a remarkable turnaround.

The result was much-needed for Henk ten Cate’s men, who moved into second in their group on four points, five points behind Persepolis, last year’s beaten finalists. Wahda, now vying to advance to the knockouts as one of the best runners-up take on Al Rayyan once again on Friday.

Published: April 21, 2021 11:29 AM

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