By Michael Church
HONG KONG, April 24 (Reuters) – Last year’s finalists Persepolis kept their quest for a first-ever Asian Champions League title on track on Friday with a 4-0 win over group hosts FC Goa that secured the Iranians a place in the knockout rounds of the competition.
The win was the fourth in a row for Yahya Golmohammadi’s side in Group E and the second in three days over the Indian club, meaning Persepolis are certain to either win the group or take one of the best runners-up positions in the last 16.
Winners of each of the 10 groups in the competition, which has expanded from 32 to 40 teams this season, will progress to the knockout rounds, along with the six second-placed finishers with the best records.
Persepolis made light work of the tournament debutants, with goals from Shahriar Moghanlou and Mehdi Torabi, from the penalty spot, giving them a halftime lead that was added to by Isa Alekasir and Kamaledin Kamyabi in the second half.
The Iranians are five points clear of Al Wahda from the United Arab Emirates, who defeated Al Rayyan 1-0 earlier in the day to effectively eliminate the Qatari club.
Meanwhile, Group B leaders and hosts Sharjah salvaged a 1-1 draw with Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor thanks to Mohammed Khalfan’s 87th minute equaliser, to sit two points clear of Iranian side Tractor in the standings.
Tractor had earlier handed Iraq’s Air Force Club a 1-0 defeat.
In Riyadh, Santi Cazorla helped Al Sadd pick up their second win in a row in Group D when he opened the scoring from the penalty spot in a 2-0 victory over Jordan’s Al Wehdat.
The former Spain international put his side in front in the 13th minute and Ali Assadalla made certain of the points in the 89th minute as Xavi Hernandez’s team stayed within a point of leaders Al Nassr.
The Saudi Arabian club moved on to eight points with a 2-0 win over Iran‘s Foolad that means last-placed Al Wehdat have no chance to advance.
Clubs in the west of Asia are playing the group phase of the Asian Champions League in centralised venues across the region due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
East Asian teams will feature in the competition in June and July, with the knockout rounds scheduled to be played from September.
(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)