Ahli triumph, Ittihad draw in AFC Champions League

Ahli defeated Iranian side Persepolis in Group D. (AFP)
Updated 22 April 2019

Ahli triumph, Ittihad draw in AFC Champions League

  • Ahli defeated Persepolis FC of Iran 2-1
  • Ittihad played for a draw against FC Lokomotiv in Tashkent

JEDDAH: Saudi sides Al-Ahli and Al-Ittihad returned to action on Monday for Matchday Four of group stage play in the AFC Champions League 2019.

Ahli defeated Persepolis FC of Iran 2-1 in a Group D match thanks to  Omar Al-Somah who struck twice on minutes 30 and 84 at the Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai.

The Iranians avoided a shutout when Shoja Khalilzadeh scored in the third minute of injury time.

The victory avenged a 2-0 defeat on Matchday Three against Persepolis and gave the Jeddah-based Ahli 6 points in the group with Persopolis on 4 points.

Ittihad, another Jeddah-based club playing away to PFC Lokomotiv in Tashkent, Uzbekhistan, settled for a 1-1 draw  in the Group B match.

Ittihad won their last match against 10-man Lokomotiv on Matchday Three behind a penalty goal in injury time by Fahad Al-Muwallad.

On Monday, winger Al-Muwallad was again in good form, his 10th minute corner kick finding Brazilian forward Romario Ricardo da Silva who  converted for the match icebreaker.

Temurkhodzha Abdulklholiqov tallied the equalizer for the hosts eight minutes before the halftime break. Lokomotiv team captain Islom Tukhtakhodjaev was shown the red card in the 75th minute. The result had Ittihad on seven points in Group B from four matches and Lokomotiv on four points. 



Rival skippers excited as Pakistan, Sri Lanka set for historic Test

Updated 48 sec ago

Rival skippers excited as Pakistan, Sri Lanka set for historic Test

  • The attack plunged Pakistan into sporting isolation during its years-long battle with militancy

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan’s captain Azhar Ali thanked Sri Lanka Tuesday for returning to Pakistan for the first Test tour there in a decade, after a fatal militant attack on their team in 2009 drove international cricket away.

“It’s a historic occasion and all the players are excited to be part of this,” Azhar, who has played 75 Tests — but, until now, none at home — said at a press conference in Rawalpindi with his counterpart, Dimuth Karunaratne.

“We thank the Sri Lankan team for coming here. The last Test was also against them so their visit will send a strong message to the world that we need to support each other,” he said.

Eight people were killed and several players and officials were wounded when militants opened fire on the Sri Lankan team bus traveling to a Test in Lahore in 2009.

The attack plunged Pakistan into sporting isolation during its years-long battle with militancy, with all “home” venues played in the UAE.

But with security dramatically improving in recent years international cricket began creeping back starting in 2015, albeit only for limited overs. Sri Lanka will play two Tests under heavy security, one in Rawalpindi and the second in Karachi, ending a decade-long absence for cricket’s five-day format. They will be the first home Tests for all 16 players in the Pakistan squad.

“Cricket is the biggest thing and if the youngsters can’t see matches here then it’s a big loss for our cricket and budding players,” Azhar said.

“I am sure our grounds will host more matches in the years to come.”

Karunaratne — who refused to tour Pakistan for a limited over series in September-October this year —  shared his rival’s sentiments.

“I am really excited ... The players are excited to be part of this historic occasion,” he said.

Sri Lanka are on the up in Test cricket after becoming the first Asian team to win a series in South Africa earlier this year.

They then drew a Test series 1-1 against New Zealand at home in August, their first fixture in the World Test championship.

Sri Lanka have not lost a series in Pakistan since 1992 — winning two and drawing two.

They beat Pakistan 2-0 in their last series in UAE two years ago, a win Karunaratne hoped will motivate them.

“We played good cricket in 2017 so that confidence is with us,” he said.

Pakistan, meanwhile, are smarting from a 3-0 defeat in South Africa and 2-0 in Australia this year.

“Test cricket demands discipline and they (Sri Lanka) are a well disciplined side, whether playing at their home or away so we have to play disciplined and good cricket,” Azhar said, adding that as captain he has to “lead by example.” 

He managed just 59 in six innings in South Africa and 62 in four in Australia.

The second Test is in Karachi from Dec. 19.