Al Duhail beat Esteghlal in AFC Champions League Round 3 thriller


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Qatari side Al Duhail pulled off a 4-3 win over Iran’s Esteghlal at the end of a seven-goal thriller in Round 3, Group C of the 2021 AFC Champions League at the King Abdullah Sport City Stadium in Jeddah on Wednesday.

Al Duhail moved on to seven points, whereas Esteghlal now have six points halfway through the group stage.

Esteghlal wasted no time, instantly taking the game to their opponents and were rewarded with the opener within four minutes. Seyed Ahmad Mousavi’s whipped cross from the right was converted into the back of the net through Amir Arsalan Motahari’s powerful header.

Al Duhail’s response did not take long as Abdullah Al Ahrak’s long ball into the box was controlled by Paulo Edmilson Junior, who then fired a left-footed effort from six yards out that was parried by goalkeeper Mohammad Rashid Mazaheri into the path of Michael Olunga who nodded home the equaliser in the 10th minute.

The Kenyan striker then added his second of the night, pouncing on a misplaced pass from Esteghlal centre-back Masoud Rigi to seize possession inside the box and slot home Al Duhail’s second just before the half-hour mark.

Esteghlal were determined to get back into the game and 10 minutes before the half-time break, they had restored parity as Farshid Esmaeili supplied a defence-splitting pass to Motahari who squared it across the face of goal for Cheick Diabate who was left with a simple tap-in.

Just before the referee prepared to blow the half-time whistle, Al Ahrak found space inside the Esteghlal area and swept home Mohammad Musa’s low cross from the right flank to put Al Duhail in the lead again.

The game’s end-to-end action continued after the restart with Esteghlal equalising a second time as Diabate’s header from the corner was blocked by Benatia, but fell to captain Esmaeili who sent a diving header into the empty net.

Five minutes before the final whistle, Olunga completed the first hat-trick of the 2021 AFC Champions League, controlling a cross from substitute Ismail Mohammed and driving home his side’s winner on the turn to round off an entertaining battle.

Al Duhail and Esteghlal will play a rematch, in Round 4, on Saturday.