Al Rayyan progress to AFC Champions League group stage


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Qatar’s Al Rayyan advanced to the group stage of this year’s AFC Champions League by winning the play-off against Iran’s Saipa 3-1 on Tuesday.

A last-minute double-salvo helped Al Rayyan come from behind to win at the Al Sadd Stadium.

The home crowd was stunned as Saipa took an early lead inside four minutes as Mohammadreza Soleiman nodded the ball on to the path of Arman Ramezani who capitalised on a defensive mix-up to stab home the opener.

Lucca then nearly found the back of the net, but his header from Rodrigo Tabata’s set-piece cannoned off the crossbar and into the hands of Akbarmonadi.

New signing Gelmin Rivas marked his continental debut for Al Rayyan with a goal. The Venezuelan received Tabata’s pass inside the box and struck a half-volley. His 27th-minute shot hit the upright on its way into the back of the net.

Despite sustained pressure from the home side, Ali Daei’s men defended well and relied on counter-attacks and set-pieces as they looked to upset Al Rayyan. 

Samuel Sarfo came close for Saipa with a header nine minutes into the second half and Moein Abbasian was not any luckier, fluffing his lines from close range in the 64th minute.

The Iranian defence finally broke under the pressure and it was again Tabata’s magical touch that created the opportunity for Al Rayyan. He sent a long ball from a set-piece that was guided expertly by Sebastian Soria’s header to turn the table in favour of the home team with one minute to go. 

Saipa threw men forward as they looked to grab a late equaliser, but spaces opened at the back allowing Al Rayyan to strike again.

Rivas doubled his tally and confirmed his side’s progress into the group stage after curling in from Koh Myong-Jin’s intelligent pass.

The 3-1 result meant Al Rayyan join two-time champions Al Ittihad as well as UAE’s Al Wahda and Uzbekistan’s Lokomotiv in Group B.