Iraq’s Al Shorta stuns Al Ahli in Asian Champions League

Al Shorta wins its first Asian Champions League match to give itself a good shot at a place in the last 16.

Al Ahli's Saad Natiq celebrates after scoring on Thursday. - TWITTER (@AlShorta_SC)

Iraqi champion Al Shorta won its first Asian Champions League match with a 2-1 victory over Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli in the Doha hub on Thursday to give itself a good shot at a place in the last 16.

The withdrawal of Emirati club Al Wahda before the resumption of the competition after a rash of COVID-19 cases in its squad left Group A with only three teams. Al Ahli secured its place in the knockout stages on Monday with a victory over Al Shorta as Asia’s premier club competition returned after a seven-month shutdown, but the Iraqis were able to secure swift revenge at Khalifa International Stadium.

Goals from Saad Natiq and Mazin Fayyadh either side of half-time sandwiched Mohammed Al-Majhad’s effort for Al Ahli and put Al Shorta second in the group three points clear of Iran’s Esteghlal.

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That sets up a crunch final group game for Al Shorta against Esteghlal at the same 2022 World Cup stadium on Sunday, where a draw would secure it a place in the next round. It would be a remarkable achievement for a club which remains champion of Iraq only because the 2019-20 season was first disrupted by civil unrest and then abandoned because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The six-times Iraqi Premier League champion reached the final of the Asian Champions League’s forerunner in 1971 but refused to play for the title against Maccabi Tel Aviv in protest at the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Al Hilal held to a draw

In Group B matches on Thursday, reigning champion Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia was held to a 0-0 draw by Uzbeki champion Pakhtakor and Shabab Al Ahli Dubai beat Iranian outfit Shahr Khodro 1-0.

Al Hilal tops the group on 10 points with two matches to play, three points clear of Pakhtakor with Shabab Al Ahli Dubai a point further back in third. The top two from each group qualify for the knockout stages.

Matches in the four East Asian groups resume in a hub in Malaysia in October. The final will be in Doha on December 19.

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