Isfahan: Ismail Al Hammadi struck deep into stoppage time as unbeaten Al Ahli claimed a first win in this season’s AFC Champions League after edging out Iran’s Sepahan 2-1 in Group D on Wednesday.
A 74th minute strike from Sepahan striker Sergio Van Dijk appeared to have seen the points shared at Foolad Shahr Stadium after the Indonesia international had cancelled out Ahmed Khalil’s eye-catching long range, first-half opener.
But with substitute Al Hammadi netting with virtually the last touch of the game in the seventh minute of stoppage time, Al Ahli followed up opening score draws with Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal and Qatar’s Al Sadd to move above 2007 finalists Sepahan in the table.
Looking to build on last week’s thrilling 3-2 home win over Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal, Sepahan thought they had opened the scoring after 20 minutes against Al Ahli but Hossein Papi was adjudged to have strayed narrowly offside before providing the cross for Mehdi Sharifi to turn home from the edge of the six-yard area.
And five minutes before half-time the visitors took the lead in spectacular fashion as Khalil was given time and space 40 yards from the Sepahan goal and the striker unleashed a vicious drive which flew over the head of goalkeeper Rahman Ahmadi and clipped the crossbar on the way into the back of the net.
But with Sepahan stepping up the pressure at the start of the second half, the home side were finally rewarded with 16 minutes remaining as Van Dijk expertly controlled Sharifi’s cross with his chest on the penalty spot before swiveling and dispatching a low strike into the bottom corner.
The Indonesia international then came close to completing the turnaround just two minutes later, but his glancing header from Yaghoub Karimi’s cross was plucked out of the top corner by Al Ahli goalkeeper Ahmed Ashoori.
But with virtually the last touch of an even contest, Al Hammadi collected a pass from Al Ahli captain Grafite (Edinaldo Batista Libânio) wide on the right side of the Sepahan penalty area, and after considering his options, the substitute guided his strike over a stunned Ahmadi and into the far corner.