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    AFC Champions League :Al Ain take top spot in Group C

    Hosts held to a 1-1 draw by Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad in AFC Champions League match

    Al Ain secured the top spot in Group C after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad in their final group fixture of the AFC Champions League at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain on Tuesday night.

    Al Ain were gifted the lead after Al Ittihad’s Mansour Sharahili headed into his own net on 22 minutes. They could have come away with a win but Al Ittihad equalised through Abdulrahman Al Ghamdi through a penalty.

    Al Ain, who only needed a draw to secure top spot, topped Group C with 11 points followed by Al Ittihad on 10. Both the teams had already qualified for the Round of 16 after Al Ain swamped Lekhwiya 5-0, to progress to the knockouts for the first time since 2006. That was also their first away win in the Group Stage in eight years.

    Al Ittihad had beaten 10-man Tractorsazi Tabriz of Iran 2-0 to qualify.

    Al Ain went ahead on 22 minutes thanks to Al Ittihad defender Mansour Sharahili, who headed into his own goal off an Al Ain corner.

    Al Ain had a chance to double the lead three minutes later when the impressive Omar Abdulrahman sent in a fine chip but Asamoah Gyan’s header was collected by the goalkeeper, after Omar’s freekick had been blocked.

    Later, in the 32nd minute, Gyan, the hero of Al Ain’s massive win over Lekhwiya in Doha, did a solo down the right after a fine through ball from the middle and got into the box and shot, forcing a diving save from the goalkeeper.

    Al Ittihad got back into the game with the equaliser, thanks to a penalty. Omar Abdulrahman hacked into Abdulrahman Al Ghamdi inside the box and the referee pointed to the spot. And Al Ghamdi made no mistake, firing his left-footer straight into the net as goalkeeper Khaled Eisa went to his right.

    Al Ain piled on the pressure after the break and came close to breaking the deadlock three minutes after the restart. Yassine El Ghanassy sprinted down the right flank, slipping past the defenders and sent a fine ball in. But Gyan contrived to shoot it wide from close range.

    Later, just past the hour mark, Omar Abdulrahman’s curling freekick was collected by the airborne Al Ittihad goalkeeper.

    Al Ittihad had the best opportunity to take the lead when the impressive Abdulrahman Al Ghamdi, who worked tirelessly, had the Al Ain defence in tatters with a fine run into the box from the left. But his effort just whizzed past the far post.

    Al Ain’s Mohammed Abdulrahman forced a collection from the Al Ittihad goalkeeper after which El Ghanassy’s pass from the right saw the defender thwart Gyan.

    Later, in the 76th minute, Mohammed Abdulrahman’s pile driver just missed the left post.

    A minute later, Al Ain had their best chance after Omar Abdulrahman, like he has done probably a thousand times now, sent in a beautiful through ball to Gyan. But his attempt was cleared for a corner.

    With 10 minutes left on the clock, Omar sent a fine chip but Gyan’s glancing header just went over the cross bar.

    (Khaleej Times)

     
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