Al Ain roared into the AFC Champions League’s knockout stages for a fifth-successive year after they thrashed Al Rayyan 4-1 in their qualification shootout.
The sides met at Doha’s Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in the knowledge that only victory would send the hosts through at the expense of the Arabian Gulf League’s champions-elect when Group D reached its crescendo.
This scenario caused no problems for the visitors, whose recovery from drawing their opening four matches is now complete. Goals from Hussein El Shahat, Omar Abdulrahman and Marcus Berg (2) followed, before Qatar veteran striker Sebastian Soria struck a late consolation during a surprisingly one-sided contest.
With pool winners Esteghlal of Iran also defeating eliminated 2017 runners-up Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia 1-0 on Monday, these results guaranteed second spot for the Boss.
They now face the daunting task in next month’s round of 16 of meeting runaway 2017/18 QNB Stars League victors Al Duhail, who are aiming to complete a complete set of six Group B-triumphs when they welcome Al Wahda on Tuesday.
Bookings in Qatar for UAE centre-back Mohanad Salem and Egypt midfielder El Shahat mean they will miss May 8’s opener at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium when Asia’s premier competition resumes.
Al Ain got off to the perfect start when Brazilian forward Caio’s shot at the end of a driving run was spilled to El Shahat. He effortlessly slotted in a 10th goal in 17 appearances since his January switch from Misr Lel-Makkasa.
Even better was to follow just before the hour mark.
Amoory rocketed in a stunning free-kick to double the advantage and Sweden No9 Berg produced a nerveless low strike from Japan utility man Tsukasa Shiotani’s smart centre.
The Sweden No9 then moved onto 27 goals from 29 games in his debut campaign with another sharp finish, prior to Soria’s immaterial tap-in during the final throes.
AL WASL 1-2 NASAF
Al Wasl guaranteed they would be the only team in the 2018 AFC Champions League to lose all six pool matches when Nasaf fought back from a goal down to defeat them in Dubai.
The Cheetahs gained hope of salvaging some pride from Group C when Brazilian forward Fabio De Lima converted Khalil Khamis’ cross.
But the game was taken away from them either side of half-time at Zabeel Stadium. Sharof Mukhitdinov equalised with a thunderous half-volley, before Bobir Abdixolikov slotted home after an excellent solo run and sharp finish from 20 yards.
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