ACL: Iran’s Esteghahl Defeats Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia to Secure Group D Top Spot
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Esteghlal of Iran football team secured first place with a 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal in Group D of the AFC Champions League on Monday.
In the match held in Al Kuwait Sports Club Stadium, Vouria Ghafouri scored a solitary goal of the match in the 36th minute.
Al Hilal started the brighter of the two sides and had its first attempt on goal six minutes in, when Achraf Bencharki came close to opening the scoring but his header from the edge of the six-yard box sailed over the bar.
The Saudi side continued to produce attacks had its second big chance in the 19th minute when Mokhtar Fallatah received the ball from Mohmmed Al Burayk's cross and dribbled past his marker before attempting a strike, only to see his chance saved at the bottom left corner.
Despite Al Hilal's domination, Esteghlal took the lead against the run of play, following a defensive mistake by Saudi international Yasir Al Shahrani after he failed to clear the ball in the penalty area in front of Vouria Ghafouri, who fired a shot into the center of the net.
Seven minutes into the second half, Al Hilal almost levelled the score when Fallatah's shot hit the left post after a pass from Bencharaki. Two minutes later, Ghafouri responded for the Iranian side, rocketing a ball from a narrow angle but his attempt was saved by goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi.
Esteghlal's victory earned them the top spot in Group D with 12 points, while Al Ain finished as runner-up, two points behind. Last year's runner-up Al Hilal ended its campaign bottom of the group with just two points.
Esteghlal will play the Group B runner-up in the Round of 16 while Al Ain will face Group B winner Al Duhail of Qatar.