Esteghlal Downs Qatar’s Al Rayyan at AFC Champions League Play-off
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Esteghlal of Iran cruised to a 5-0 victory over Al Rayyan of Qatar at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium on Tuesday to book its place in the 2020 AFC Champions League group stage.
Esteghlal had arrived to the play-off stage on the back of a 3-0 win over Kuwait SC in the second preliminary round, while Al Rayyan was kicking-off its campaign at this stage on home soil after finishing fourth in the 2018-19 Qatar Stars League season.
The visitors needed just nine minutes to take the lead. Voria Ghafouri beat the Al Rayyan wall and the goalkeeper with a well-struck free-kick from 25 yards, but his shot ricocheted off the upright and into the path of Cheick Diabate who controlled and hammered the rebound into the back of the net.
In the 40th minute, Diabate turned from scorer to provider. The Malian striker broke free on the counter and crossed for Mehdi Ghaedi whose looped header nestled into the far corner of goalkeeper Fahad Younis to send Esteghlal into the break with a two-goal lead.
Two minutes into the second half, Al Rayyan defense failed to deal with a Hrvoje Milic cross, allowing the ball to fall for Ghaedi inside the box and the Esteghlal number 10 composedly fired home his side’s third of the night.
Substitute Amir Arsalan Motahari added his name to the scoresheet with seven minutes to go. The striker received Ghafouri’s cross at the edge of the area and drove home Esteghlal’s fourth goal despite Younis’ desperate attempts to save.
Just before the final whistle, Motahari rounded off the scoring in a similar fashion following a cross from Arash Rezavand to make it 5-0.
Esteghlal progress to take its place in Group A of the 2020 AFC Champions League alongside UAE’s Al Wahda, Iraq’s Al Shorta and Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli.