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2020 AFC Champions League – MD3 & MD4 (West): What They Said

Doha: After almost seven months, 2020 AFC Champions League action returned to West Asia in scintillating fashion with the sides playing back-to-back fixtures and providing numerous talking points.

Historic first wins, successful returns from injury and team spirit aplenty, here's what those involved had to say about the Matchday Three and Matchday Four rounds of fixtures.

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“I am happy to play an official game after a long time on the sidelines. I am happy that I am fit again and fully recovered after weeks of absence from training. It was a difficult injury and I am happy to start the competition with a win against a strong team like Al Shorta."

AFC Champions League debutant Marko Marin couldn't hide his delight following his return from injury after the German's late winner against Al Shorta on Monday capped his first competitive start since March and helped Al Ahli confirm their place in the last 16.

"We trained and prepared in extremely hot weather in UAE, but today we played in an air-conditioned stadium which made things easier for us, especially in transitions between defence and attack."

Shabab Al Ahli Dubai coach Gerard Zaragoza was full of praise for Qatar's state-of-the-art stadiums after the Emirati side claimed their first win of the campaign by seeing off Shahr Khodro 1-0 on Monday to reignite their chances of reaching the knockout rounds.

Group B - MD3: Shabab Al Ahli Dubai 1-0 Shahr Khodro FC

“We deserved more against Al Ain, and we need to improve. We created a number of chances in the first half, but we weren’t good enough. In the second half the team was superb and did a lot better, but we weren’t lucky enough in front of goal. This is football though."

Al Sadd coach Xavi Hernandez saw pros and cons in his side's topsy-turvy 3-3 draw with Al Ain on Tuesday but insisted the Qataris must be more clinical in front of goal if they want to succeed in the AFC Champions League. His side clearly took heed: Al Sadd won 4-0 on Friday's Matchday Four return clash with the Emirati club.

“Despite all the conditions that we went through, we managed to get the three points. We proved that we have great unity and we kept fighting until we scored the winning goal. Our players have great experience, especially in the AFC Champions League and this helped us win.”

Man-of-the-Match Salem Al Dawsari heaped praise on the defending champions after Al Hilal netted a stoppage-time winner to defeat Pakhtakor 2-1 on Monday and round off a difficult few days in which several of his teammates had tested positive for COVID-19.

“I trained a lot for free-kicks and my teammates told me that I will score a free-kick soon. I am happy that they believed in me. For us to be successful we have to come together as a team, and I believe we did that today and we did well as a team."

Al Duhail's new signing Ramin Rezaeian had kind words for his teammates after the Islamic Republic of Iran international netted a superb free-kick that ultimately sealed a 2-1 victory over Sharjah on Tuesday in what was only his third AFC Champions League match ever.

“I don’t believe in history having an impact. Football is more about science now, and the better you prepare, you can get the results you need. Logically it is very difficult for a team like us to be without a competitive match for so long and come and compete at this level, but this is in our nature as Iraqis blossom under adversity. The players had the desire."

Thorough preparation and sheer will to win were the foundations of Al Shorta's historic first-ever AFC Champions League victory on Thursday, according to head coach Abdulghani Shahd. After beating Al Ahli Saudi 2-1, the Iraqis will qualify for the last 16 if they defeat Esteghlal on Wednesday.

"I'd like to thank each and every player on the team for the extra effort they put in to get the three points. This victory is a gift for our suppporters back home. While we're happy with the win, we're not qualified for the knockout stage yet, and we have to focus on the matches to come."

Persepolis coach Yahya Golmohammadi insisted his side will avoid any complacency despite back-to-back 1-0 wins taking the Tehran giants to the top of Group C with two matches to spare. The Iranian champions are just a point above Saudi Arabia's Al Taawoun and Al Duhail SC of Qatar who occupy second and third respectively.

Group C - MD4: Al Taawoun 0-1 Persepolis

“There is an Arabic proverb that says ‘who toils succeeds’ and I never stopped training during the stoppage time of COVID19. I had a one-week rest and then continued training. I didn’t waste any time, put a lot of effort and thankfully this effort paid through scoring goals in the competition.”

The 2020 AFC Champions League's leading scorer Abderrazak Hamdallah credits his intense training regime and workrate for his success in this year's competition. The Al Nassr striker scored for the eighth consecutive time on the Continent in the Saudi club's 2-0 win over Sepahan on Matchday Four.

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