Al Rayyan lose to Iran’s Esteghlal in AFC Champions League play-off


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Qatar’s Al Rayyan lost 0-5 to Iran’s Esteghlal at the Al Sadd Stadium on Tuesday as the latter booked their place in the 2020 AFC Champions League group stage.

Esteghlal thus progressed to Group A.

Qatar’s Al Sadd and Al Duhail, the top two teams in the 2018-19 QNB Stars League, had qualified directly for the group stage of Asia’s premier club competition.

Al Sailiya and Al Rayyan, the third and fourth-placed teams, went into play-off to be eligible to make it to the tournament proper.

Esteghlal qualified to play Al Rayyan after they defeated Kuwait SC 3-0 in Dubai in the preliminary round on 25th January.

Esteghlal needed just nine minutes to take the lead. Vorya Ghafouri and Cheick Diabate had between them scored all of Esteghlal’s three goals in the previous round, and on the occasion their combination produced the opener.

Ghafouri beat the Al Rayyan wall and the goalkeeper with a well-struck free-kick from 25 yards, but his shot ricocheted off the upright and into the path of Diabate who controlled and hammered the rebound into the back of the net.

Five minutes before the break. Diabate turned from scorer to provider. The Malian striker broke free on the counter and crossed for Mehdi Ghaedi whose looped header nestled into the far corner of goalkeeper Fahad Younis to send Esteghlal into the break with a two-goal lead.

The same pattern continued after the restart, with the visitors dominating. The Al Rayyan defence failed to deal with a Hrvoje Milic cross, allowing the ball to fall for Ghaedi inside the box and he fired home for his side’s third goal in the 47th minute.

Substitute Amir Arsalan Motahari added his name to the scoresheet with seven minutes to go. The striker received Ghafouri’s cross at the edge of the area and drove home Esteghlal’s fourth goal despite Younis’ desperate attempts to save.

Just before the final whistle, Motahari rounded off the scoring in similar fashion following a cross from Arash Rezavand to make it 5-0.