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Al Hilal and Al Ain progress, Al-Rayyan must wait

Doha (AFP) – Saudi giants Al Hilal progressed to the knockout phase of the AFC Champions League but Qatar’s Al Rayyan must wait after suffering one of their worst drubbings in recent memory on Monday.

Al Hilal picked up a valuable point following a goalless draw against Iran’s Persepolis that secured them a top two finish in Group D, while Michael Laudrup’s Al Rayyan suffered a 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Al Wahda in Abu Dhabi. 

Al Rayyan are still in second spot with seven points from five games and will have to wait two more weeks to find out if they could make the knockouts for the first time in their history when they face Al Hilal.

Al Wahda’s victory in Abu Dhabi was sweet revenge for a 2-1 defeat in the reverse fixture, but more importantly it also keeps their faint last 16 hopes alive after losing three of their four previous games.

Forward Sebastian Tagliabue was the hero for the Emirati side, his brace coming in handy after Al Rayyan had taken a 21st minute lead through former Barcelona player Sergio Garcia.

Al Wahda equalised in the 33rd minute when Jorge Valdivia’s clever through ball picked out Ahmed al-Akberi who beat Al Rayyan goalkeeper Omar Barry with a deft shot from close. 

Just two minutes from half-time, Al Wahda were ahead as Balasz Dzsudzsak’s well struck effort deflected in off team-mate Tagliabue, before Salem Sultan turned in a Dzsudzsak free-kick seven minutes after the resumption. 

With Al Rayyan’s defence hardly measuring up to the task, Tagliabue and Khalil al-Hammadi put the result beyond doubt with two late goals to keep Al Wahda in contention. They have four points and Persepolis have five — both must win their final match against each other to stand any chance of progressing.

Meanwhile, last year’s runners-up Al Ain booked their spot in the round of 16 with an emphatic 3-0 victory over Iran’s Zobahan. The victory gave Al Ain nine points from five matches, meaning they cannot finish outside the top two in Group C. 

Danilo Asprilla put Al Ain ahead in the 25th minute before a missed penalty by Jerry Bengtson saw them hold onto their advantage lead at half-time. 

Al Ain doubled their lead with a fine solo effort from Omar Abdulrahman in the 60th minute before Mohamed Abdulrahman added a third in the 81st minute to seal all three points.

Meanwhile, already eliminated Bundyokor ended an 18-match winless streak with a 2-0 victory over Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia in Group C.

The Uzbek side shot out the blocks at Bunyodkor Stadium in Tashkent with an early goal when defender Akramjon Komilov headed home following a corner. 

Al Ahli created several chances but failed to score and Eldor Shomurodov doubled the hosts’ lead five minutes into the second period, while the visitors rarely threatened. 

With Monday’s defeat, Al Ahli missed the chance to make the last 16 with a game to spare and are left facing a crunch tie with Zobahan next month.

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