Football

ACL 2020 - Group D: Al Ain, Al Sadd share points in thrilling draw

Group D of the 2020 AFC Champions League took off to a fiery start as Al Ain FC put an end to a run of five consecutive losses in the competition when they shared the spoils in an exciting 3-3 draw with Qatar’s Al Sadd SC on Tuesday.

The two sides went into the game with contrasting fortunes, with Al Ain needing to pick up points after opening their campaign with two losses while Al Sadd needed to consolidate their position at the top of Group D.

Despite not playing a competitive match in the past six months, the inaugural AFC Champions League winners took just five minutes to open the scoring, when Togolese striker Kodjo Laba met debutant Wilson Eduardo’s low cross to slot past Qatar international Saad Al Sheeb.

It was end to end from that moment on, as Al Sadd looked to reply in kind with the biggest chance coming down to captain Hassan Al Haydos on the right, but he slipped before managing a shot. At the other end of the pitch, Al Sheeb needed to come out of his area to head a long ball away from Laba.

Al Sadd equalised just after the half hour mark when 2019 AFC Footballer of the Year Akram Afif fired in a right footed shot into the bottom corner.

Al Ain replied instantly through Kazakhstan international midfielder Bauyrzhan Islamkhan, who controlled the ball a few yards outside Al Sadd’s area, before firing in a shot that took Al Sheeb by surprise - the Qatari keeper rose to meet it to no avail as the ball crept just under the crossbar.

Al Sadd drew level when Santi Cazorla scored on his AFC Champions League debut; the Spaniard hammered in a low shot with his right foot from Afif’s cut-back from the left side of the pitch.

Not long after, Baghdad Bounedjah got his first goal of the current edition and put his side ahead after he tapped in Nam Tae-hee’s low cross, the latter having beaten Bandar Al Ahbabi to assist his teammate.

The match sprung to life again after the flurry of goals, with chances at both ends being missed. Khoukhi missed a golden opportunity to increase the difference when he missed a header at the far corner, while Laba missed the chance to equalise when he hit the post.

A few minutes after the hour mark, Khoukhi put the ball past his own keeper after rising to clear a lofted ball into the area but instead headed in to gift Al Ain the equaliser.

Chances came left, right, and centre for both teams as they looked to break the deadlock before the final whistle, in one of the most lively games so far in the competition.

Al Ain collected their first point to remain in contention, while Al Sadd moved up to five points ahead of the two sides' rematch on Friday.

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