Al Ittihad keeps AFC Champions League campaign alive

Doha, April 21 (IANS) Two-time AFC Champions League winners Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia kept their 2016 campaign alive as two goals from Abdulrahman Al Ghamdi helped steer the club to a 4-0 victory over former finalists Sepahan of Iran.

The results on Wednesday evening meant the Iranian side, runners-up to Urawa Reds in 2007, was stopped from the last 16 of the competition while Al Ittihad moved to within two points of second-placed Al Nasr of the United Arab Emirates with only one round of Group A matches remaining, reports Xinhua.

Al Ittihad and Sepahan will meet again in two weeks’time and Victor Piturca’s team must win again to have any chance of overhauling Al Nasr.

Wednesday’s win for the Saudis also meant group leaders Lokomotiv of Uzbekistan will have to wait until the last round matches before confirming their place in the next phase.

Al Ghamdi scored three minutes into first-half injury time and the 2004 and 2005 ACL champions had several other opportunities to add to their haul, but poor finishing allowed the Iranians to stay in contention until Fahad Al Muwallad netted seven minutes from time. Al Ghamdi then added a third four minutes before the end and Gelmin Rivas completed the rout on the stroke of full time.

“We needed this victory and we were expecting to win but the big result was a nice surprise for me,” said Piturca. “The Al Ittihad players showed today that they are at a high level good and they are getting back to form.

“We played well in the two periods and the most important thing is that we scored from the chances that we created. We should take advantage of this win in order to have a big push in the last match.”

“The big defeat is a disappointing result for us,” said Sepahan coach Igor Stimac. “We made several mistakes and this gave the opportunity for our opponents to create chances. They scored from these as they were in a better shape mentally than us.

“In the first half we played well and we created some chances which we couldn’t score from. In the second half we lost concentration at some moments and this affected us as we conceded three goals.”

–IANS

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