Sharjah win, Al Wahda lose on mixed first day for UAE in Asian Champions League group stages

AGL champions claim 1-0 win over Air Force Club, while Abu Dhabi club go down by same scoreline to Persepolis

Sharjah's players celebrate after Khalid Bawazir scores the decisive goal in the Asian Champions League Group B match against Air Force Club. AFP
Sharjah's players celebrate after Khalid Bawazir scores the decisive goal in the Asian Champions League Group B match against Air Force Club. AFP

The UAE’s representatives endured a mixed start on Day 1 of the Asian Champions League group stages on Wednesday night, with Sharjah defeating Air Force Club 1-0 and Al Wahda losing by the same scoreline to Persepolis.

Making their third appearance in the competition, Sharjah began their Group B campaign with a narrow victory against their Iraqi rivals at Sharjah Stadium – all the pool’s matches will be played in the emirate – with Khalid Bawazir’s second-half goal decisive.

The UAE side, still by default the country’s reigning league champions after last season’s Arabian Gulf League was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, had survived an earlier scare, when Ali Kadhim’s header from a corner on the half hour struck the crossbar.

However, on 62 minutes, the home side grabbed their winner. Winger Caio, deployed in a lone role up front, advanced down his team's right and crossed for Bawazir, who drilled the ball into the roof of the Air Force Club goal.

Sharjah then had goalkeeper Adel Al Hosani to thank for a series of saves to guarantee the points. Air Force Club, three-time AFC Cup winners, played out the final moments with 10 men, after Humam Tareq was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Caio. Sharjah next face Iran’s Tractor FC on Saturday.

Earlier on Wednesday, Wahda’s Group E bid got off to a disappointing start with their single-goal defeat to Persepolis in Goa, India. The Abu Dhabi side, who came into the match unbeaten in seven Champions League games, were outdone by Seyed Jalal Hosseini’s goal five minutes before half-time.

Persepolis, runners-up in 2018 and again last year, sealed the points at the Pandit Jawaharial Nehru Stadium when Mehdi Torabi exchanged passes with Ehsan Pahlavan and then found his captain to stroke home. The Iranians had earlier struck the woodwork.

Wahda, managed once more by recent appointment Henk ten Cate, have a chance to rebound on Saturday, against hosts FC Goa.

Published: April 15, 2021 10:06 AM

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