Soccer-Persepolis Fight Back against Al Rayyan to Maintain Perfect Start

By Michael Church

HONG KONG, April 18 (Reuters) – Last year’s Asian Champions League runners-up Persepolis came from a goal down to hand Qatari side Al Rayyan a 3-1 defeat in Group E in Goa on Saturday to continue their perfect start to the 2021 campaign.

Shahriar Moghanlou scored twice after Kamal Kamyabinia had cancelled out Naif Al Hadhrami’s opener as Yahya Golmohammadi’s side picked up their second win in a row.

The victory moves the Iranian club to the top of the group, where they lead hosts FC Goa by four points after the Indian side held Al Wahda of the United Arab Emirates to a 0-0 draw earlier in the day.

Xavi Hernandez’s Al Sadd, meanwhile, slipped to a 3-1 loss against Al Nassr of Saudi Arabia in Group D despite seeing Santi Cazorla cancel out Abderrazak Hamdallah’s penalty just before the hour mark with a superb free kick.

Abdulmajeed Al Sulaiheem put Al Nassr back in front 11 minutes from time and Khalid Al Ghannam sealed the win in the 94th minute when he punished the Qatari club on the break.

Al Nassr are level on four points at the top of the group with Iranian side Foolad, who picked up a 1-0 win over tournament debutants Al Wihdat from Jordan courtesy of Luciano Chimba’s 44th minute penalty.

In Group B, hosts Sharjah and Iran’s Tractor shared a 0-0 draw to leave the UAE club in pole position with four points, two ahead of Uzbekistan’s Pahktakor, following their earlier 0-0 draw with Air Force Club from Iraq, and Tractor.

Games in the western half of the Asian Champions League, which has expanded from 32 to 40 teams this season, are being played in biosecure hubs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The winners of each of the competition’s 10 groups will advance to the next phase along with the six best runners-up, with the knockout rounds due to start in September.

The group phase for teams in the east of the continent is expected to be played in June and July.

(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Ken Ferris)