Al Sadd hold Foolad in AFC Champions League opener


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Qatar’s Al Sadd held Iran’s Foolad Khouzestan to a 1-1 draw in Group D of 2021 AFC Champions League at the King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh on Wednesday.

Boualem Khoukhi scored in the 89th minute as Al Sadd SC fought back to share a point.

It was heartbreak at the end for Foolad, who looked to have sealed a famous win against the Qatar champions.

Al Sadd started strongly by pressing Foolad into their own half, but the Iranian side were able to hold their ground as they eventually pushed the Qatari side back, setting the stage for an exciting tie.

The 2020-21 season QNB Stars League champions made multiple inroads into the final third with Rodrigo Tabata testing Foolad goalkeeper Mohsen Foroozan with a long range strike in the 20th minute.

Foolad did have their moments but Brazilian striker Chimba, who scored twice against Al Ain in the playoff, was unable to have an early influence on the proceedings.

Foolad came closest in the 38th minute when Zobeir Niknafs let loose a strike from outside the box, but Al Sadd custodian Meshaal Barsham tipped the ball over the bar.

The deadlock continued well into the second half, but with a noticeable change in Foolad’s approach, who were now on the front foot.

Their aggression paid off in the 61st minute as Mehran Derakshan delivered a curling cross into the box which Boualem Khoukhi cleared but a prowling Chimba rose high to head home to hand Foolad the lead.

Foolad were reminded not to underestimate Al Sadd’s ability to make a comeback with Khoukhi testing goalkeeper Foroozan with his free-kick in the 81st minute, but he would not miss seven minutes later when he found the back of the net with his strike from inside the box, with Baghdad Bounedjah picking up the assist.

Al Sadd will take on Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr next on Saturday, while Foolad will face Al Wehdat.