By Michael Church
HONG KONG, April 21 (Reuters) – Iran‘s Persepolis took a step towards booking a place in the knockout rounds of the Asian Champions League on Tuesday with a 2-1 win over tournament debutants FC Goa that moves the two-time finalists five points clear at the top of group E.
Goals from Mehdi Torabi and Seyyed Jalal Hosseini canceled out Edu Bedia’s early opener for the group hosts as Yahya Golmohammadi’s side maintained their perfect start to the campaign to move on to nine points from their first three games.
That sees Persepolis, who lost in last year’s final to South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai, move five points ahead of second placed Al Wahda of the United Arab Emirates after their earlier 3-2 come-from-behind win over Qatari side Al Rayyan.
Bedia had given FC Goa a surprise lead with a header 13 minutes into the game, but Torabi pegged them back four minutes later from the penalty spot.
Veteran defender Hosseini then scored his second in three games when he headed in Torabi’s cross from the left after the Goa defence had failed to clear a corner.
In group D in Riyadh, Xavi Hernandez’s Al Sadd picked up a 3-1 win over Jordanian side Al Wihdat to haul themselves to within a point of the summit.
Baghdad Bounedjah, Boualem Khoukhi and Hassan Al Haydos all scored inside the first 26 minutes to give Al Sadd their first win, which moves them on to four points from three games.
Al Nassr and Iran‘s Foolad are a point ahead of Al Sadd after the pair shared a 1-1 draw.
Group B hosts Sharjah of the UAE continued their unbeaten start to the campaign as a 4-1 victory over Pakhtakor from Uzbekistan moved them four points clear of Iranian side Tractor.
Second half goals from Caio and Luanzinho sealed the win for Sharjah and cemented their position at the top of the group after Tractor were held to a 0-0 draw by Iraqi side Air Force Club.
Teams in the west of Asia are playing the group stages of the expanded Asian Champions League in a series of biosecure hubs across the region.
The winners of each of the 10 groups across the entire competition will qualify for the knockout rounds alongside the six best-placed runners.
Clubs in the east of the continent will play their group games in June and July, with the last 16 scheduled to kick off in September.
(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Sam Holmes)