Qatar’s Al Duhail on Monday became the first West Asian team to book their place in the 2019 AFC Champions League’s Round of 16 when they played out a hard-fought 1-1 draw with Iran’s Esteghlal at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran on Monday.
Al Duhail have eight points with only one round of action remaining.
Esteghlal went into the Matchday 5 Group C fixture in the knowledge that only a win can keep their qualification hopes alive and they started brightly, coming within inches of opening the scoring in the 12th minute.
South African midfielder Ayanda Patosi beat Al Duhail goalkeeper Amine Lecomte with a curled free-kick from 30 yards out. Esteghlal were, however, denied the opener as Patosi’s ball struck the upright.
Al Duhail responded from a similar set-piece through Bassam Al Rawi, but the Qatar international’s strike passed narrowly wide off the post.
Al Duhail were set to take the lead 20 minutes in as Luiz Martin supplied a defence-splitting through ball for Edmilson who broke free down the right with Yousef El Arabi taking up a position unmarked inside the Esteghlal penalty box.
The Brazilian’s squared ball left El Arabi with a simple task to apply the finish from 10 yards, but goalkeeper Seyed Hosseini made himself big and blocked the Moroccan’s shot to deny the visitors a sure goal.
The home crowd erupted as Esteghlal finally broke the deadlock in the 53rd minute. The Al Duhail defence failed to deal with a Patosi cross from the right and defender Roozbeh Cheshmi pounced on the loose ball to fire home from close range.
The hosts’ joy was short-lived as Al Duhail fired back after a couple of minutes. Ali Afif exchanged passes with Almoez Ali down the left flank before crossing for El Arabi. Hosseini was first to the ball, but his clearance only went as far as Edmilson and the Brazilian converted the second ball into the back of the net to bring the game back to square one.