Al Jazira face the daunting task of facing dominant Persian Gulf Pro League champions Persepolis in the 2018 AFC Champions League’s round of 16 after falling to a 2-1 defeat to Al Ahli Jeddah on Tuesday.
The Pride of Abu Dhabi was already assured of a place in the knockouts following their thrilling 3-2 win over Al Gharafa in Doha earlier this month, but had an opportunity to win the group with a two-goal margin victory over the Saudi giants.
Prior to the match, Jazira coach Henk ten Cate said his team were looking for revenge after suffering defeat in the corresponding fixture in February. But there was more misery at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.
Serhiy Rebrov’s men made a sensational start as Salah Al Amri converted the ball from a narrow angle to give the visitors the lead.
Ali Mabkhout came close to an equalizer after seeing his header hit the post in the 13th minute. However, it was Al Ahli who were again celebrating when Moamen Zakaria scored a stunning goal after his curling effort went into the right corner of the net.
Jazira were fortunate to still find themselves two behind when Al Muwashar’s effort was stopped by goalkeeper Abdulrahman Al Ameri – standing in for the absent Ali Khaseif – early in the second half.
But the hosts reduced the deficit in the 68th minute when Romarinho pounced on a loose ball from a poor clearance by Hamdan Al Shamarani to set up an exciting final 20 minutes.
Four minutes later, Mabkhout thought he had levelled the scores after he met a pinpoint cross from Mohamed Fawzi first-time, but goalkeeper Yasser Al Mosailem was well-positioned to make the save.
The result means Jazira will host Persepolis, who topped Group C, on May 7 ahead of the return leg a week later. Al Ahli Jeddah meet 2011 champions Al Sadd.
ANOTHER LOSS FOR AL WAHDA
Al Wahda limped out the competition on a losing note after a 1-0 defeat to Qatar’s Al Duhail.
Salem Sultan was sent off for the Clarets in the first half and Abdelrahman Fahmi’s strike settled the match.
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