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Group C: Al Ahli Saudi, Esteghlal draw takes AFC Champions League race down to the wire


Jeddah: Al Ahli Saudi FC and Esteghlal FC played out a goalless draw at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium on Tuesday to set up a thrilling final matchday in Group C of the 2021 AFC Champions League.

A goalless draw means three teams – Saudi Arabia's Al Ahli, Al Duhail of Qatar and Islamic Republic of Iran's Esteghlal go into the final matchday with eight points to their names. Esteghlal face Al Shorta on Friday while Al Ahli’s Matchday Six game pits them against Al Duhail.

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After Al Duhail were beaten by Al Shorta 2-1 in the earlier Tuesday match, both teams came into the game with the knowledge that the Group C top spot was up for grabs.

The Saudi side started brightly and had their first chance after 15 minutes as Abdulrahman Ghareeb curled a free-kick over the wall but goalkeeper Mohammad Rashid Mazaheri produced a flying save to deny the youngster.

Al Ahli came as close as possible to scoring seven minutes before the break when Abdulbaset Al Hindi pounced on a loose ball inside the ball and powered a volleyed effort that beat the Esteghlal goalkeeper but cannoned off the crossbar.

Deprived of real scoring chances, Esteghlal’s only threat in the first half came three minutes before the whistle when Hrvoje Milic tried his luck from distance but failed to find the target.

Seconds later, Moroccan midfielder Driss Fettouhi sent a similar effort, but his shot required a reflex save from Mazaheri to keep the sides level at the break.

The first opportunity of a cagey second half came at the midway point with Abdullah Tarmin sending a cross from the right for Omar Al Soma who was able to get to the ball first and head goalward, but the Esteghlal goalkeeper was again alert and smothered his attempt.

Al Soma thought he had scored just nine minutes before the final whistle as substitute Sultan Mandash set him up at the edge of the area and he hit a thunderous effort that hit the side netting as the teams settle for a draw to set up a thrilling final Matchday on Friday.

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