Esteghlal Khouzestan 1 (Zobeidi 86), Al Jazira 1 (Ahmed 43)
A late equaliser from Mehdi Zobeidi put paid to Al Jazira’s chances of pulling off a consolation victory in a disappointing Asian Champions League campaign for the newly crowned UAE champions.
Zobeidi headed in a cross from Hassan Beit Saeid four minutes from time at the Ghadir Stadium in Ahwaz, Southwest Iran to cancel out Humaid Ahmed’s first-half strike, allowing Esteghlal Khouzestan to salvage a 1-1 draw in the last matchday of Group B action.
Jazira finish bottom of the group with just two points from six games while Khouzestan progress to the last 16 behind Qatar’s Lekhwiya, who outclassed Al Fateh of Saudi Arabia 4-1 at the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha.
Jazira, who were missing manager Henk ten Cate from the dugout through illness, went into the break ahead through Ahmed’s fierce drive from the edge of the area that rocketed into the top left corner.
They did well to defend the one-goal lead for almost the entire second half with their captain and goalkeeper Ali Kasheif enjoying an outstanding game. The UAE international denied Khouzestan on three occasions before Zobeidi rose above the visitors’ defence to head in Saeid’s cross on 86 minutes.
For Jazira, it was another disappointing campaign in the continental championship after they finished bottom of their respective group in 2016 with a solitary point.
The Abu Dhabi club’s objective was never the ACL but on the domestic Arabian Gulf League, which they won with three games remaining.
They are now preparing for a record bid of 22 wins in the league, which would be a record in the professional era in the UAE. With the game against Khouzestan a mere formality, Jazira rested most of their key players for their final league game against Al Dhafra at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium on Friday.
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