0858 GMT December 03, 2022
The head coaches of the two Persian Gulf Pro League clubs Sepahan and Foolad Khouzestan regretted their sides’ squandering of scoring chances in their second group stage matches at the AFC Champions League on Sunday night.
Addressing reporters after Sepahan’s 0-1 defeat against Qatar’s Al Duhail SC, which got its first win in Group D of the ACL 2022, Iranian head coach Moharam Navidkia said, “Although we were good in general, to win important matches we have to use our scoring chances,” IRNA reported.
He added, “Tonight, we failed to do that. We had a number of good chances, but our rival took the better of us in the final 20 minutes and left the pitch victorious.”
Navidkia said his players failed to turn in one-on-one chances, stressing that in such a situation, any result would be possible at the end of the match.
He, however, expressed satisfaction with creating so many scoring chances, saying this shows his players had done their job well.
Navidkia blamed fatigue and stress for his men’s lack of success in scoring, noting that since Al Duhail had conceded its first game, “we knew it would start the match with an attacking formation”.
“Our plan was to capitalize on counterattacks.”
Al Duhail clinched its first ACL win thanks to Michael Olunga’s late effort in a game that finished 1-0 against Sepahan SC at the King Abdullah Sports City on Sunday, according to the-afc.com.
Al Duhail players needed the win following their defeat against group host Al Taawoun on the opening matchday, and they duly delivered despite missing a host of chances in the first half, not managing any shots on target though they clicked into gear in the second.
It was a quick start as Navidkia’s charges threatened from the off, with just three minutes on the clock when Shahriyar Moghanlou’s attempted shot found its way to Sajjad Shahbaz-zadeh, who smashed the resulting shot against the far post before eventually being flagged offside.
Al Duhail held over 65 percent of the ball across the first half but despite dominating proceedings and having the bulk of chances, the closest it got to goalmouth action was when Olunga’s shot was blocked after an intelligent piece of play by Edmilson.
Hernan Crespo’s men had their first shot on target two minutes into the second period of play. Mohamed Hosseini conceded a corner, with Edmilson’s corner finding Bassam Al Rawi whose header bounced before keeper Mohammad Mazaheri held it comfortably.
Hosseini missed a golden chance to take the Isfahan-based side ahead, when he dispossessed Belgian center-back Toby Alderweireld – the last man at the back – and made a run for goal before inexplicably firing wide of the post when one-on-one against the keeper.
Moghanlou came agonizingly close a little before the hour mark, when he charged into the area and managed to chip Salah Zakaria, but his chip was slow and Alderweireld managed to get back in time to clear it off the line.
Al Duhail’s men stepped up their final third operations with Karim Boudiaf finding Nam Tae-hee from the right flank but the Korean midfielder, a little over six yards away from goal, made a heavy touch and saw it go wide.
With just six minutes to go, 2021 top scorer Olunga did what he does best to open his account for the campaign. Quiet throughout the game, Almoez Ali played an excellent ball into the area and the Kenyan finished with a diving header to give his side its first three points.
Up next for Sepahan is group host Al Taawoun on Thursday in the late kickoff, while Al Duhail faces Uzbek Super League champion Pakhtakor.
In Group C of the ACL on Sunday, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai came from behind to earn a 1-1 draw against Foolad Khouzestan.
After his side’s defeat, Foolad Khouzestan head coach and former Iran skipper Javad Nekounam said, “While we were thinking of a second goal, we conceded one due to our own lack of experience and mistake.”
Describing the match as good, he added, “We created lots of scoring chances, but failed to score more. The rival’s equalizer was scored in a counterattack and we had to settle for one point in the end.”
“After our goal, we could control the game, but did not have sufficient experience."
Foolad was on track to secure its first win in the campaign when Ahmad Nourollahi scored an own goal in the 83rd minute before Fede Cartabia leveled the score late in the match as both teams shared the points.
Foolad saw plenty of the ball early in the match as Shahab Ah Ahli Dubai struggled to escape from its half, losing second balls to the determined Iranian side.
But the first big chance fell to the Emirati team in the 13th minute in a counterattack. An unmarked Mohammad Jumaa’s right-footed shot found the side net after connecting with Abdelaziz Hussain’s cross from the right.
Harib Abdalla wasted another chance in the 24th minute when Azizjon Ganiev broke free from midfield, finding Jumaa who teed up his teammate who failed to trouble the keeper as the Foolad defense cleared his shot.
With few clear-cut chances in the first 45 minutes, the final attempt fell to Foolad. Mehdi Shiri found an on-rushing Arasha Rezavand just outside the penalty box, but his strike from distance sailed over the bar as both teams entered the changing rooms searching for a goal.
Foolad started the second half on a brighter note when Luciano Mendes, known as Shimba, saw his glancing header narrowly missing the bottom left corner after connecting with Mohammad Abshak’s cross in the 54th minute.
The Iranian side was again on the attack after the hour mark, this time Hamid Bouhamdan guiding his header directly at goalkeeper Majed Naser.
Both sides continued to find for the opening goal and Foolad’s persistence was finally rewarded late into the match. Mohammad Reza did well to keep the ball inside his opponent’s defense to find Bouhamdan, who let loose his strike that was deflected into the back of the net by Nourollahi.
With the clock ticking, Shabab Al Ahli pressed for an equalizer which came in injury time.
Yahya Al Ghassani made a brilliant run into the penalty box and provided a pinpoint pass to Cartabia who made no mistake from the right side of the six-yard box to put the ball beyond Shahab Gordan as both teams settled for their second draw.