Al Sadd held to goalless draw in Iran
AHWAZ, IRAN: Foolad Khouzestan secured a point in their AFC Champions League opener on Wednesday despite being reduced to 10 men for the final 20 minutes as the Iranian champions played out a goalless draw against 2011 winners Al Sadd from Qatar at Ghadir Stadium.
While both teams showed plenty of attacking intent, there were precious few opportunities created by either side in the tightly-fought Group C curtain raiser.
Khouzestan were reduced to 10-men in the second half after Mehdi Badrloo was sent-off following a late challenge on former AFC Player of the Year Khalfan Ibrahim, but even with the man advantage for Al Sadd, neither they nor their hosts were able to break the deadlock despite the visitors bringing on a pair of potent Brazilians in the shape of former AFC Champions League MVP Muriqui and Bundesliga winner Grafite.
Home side Khouzestan made a positive start and could have gone ahead inside the first 10 minutes after Mohsen Mosalman’s curling shot from a set piece just outside of the penalty area went narrowly wide.
And a minute later Cameroonian striker Aloys Nong also went close, but his shot from inside the penalty area was blocked by an Al Sadd defender.
And Nong wasted another opportunity in the midway through the first half when he drilled a shot wide from inside the area following a pass from Mehrdad Jamaati.
Although the Iran Pro League side had shaded the first half, Al Sadd came out the stronger in the second period and seven minutes after the restart Yusef Ahmed took the ball into the 18 yard area after the Khouzestan defense lost possession, but his poor strike went wide of the left-hand post.
Former Wolfsburg and Al Ahli forward Grafite was brought on by Dragan Skocic as he looked to sharpen his forward line after the hour mark and the Brazilian drilled a powerful shot narrowly wide.
But on the 70th minute Khouzestan’s task was made much harder after Badrloo clattered into Ibrahim late and earned his second yellow card of the tie to see the hosts reduced to 10 men.
Sensing a chance to capitalise on the numerical superiority, Al Sadd coach Skocic then sent on 2013 AFC Champions League winner Muriqui onto the field in the final 10 minutes of the tie, with the former AFC Foreign Player of the Year and Guangzhou Evergrande striker seeking his first continental goals for his new club.
While both teams had chances to grab a late winner, Grafite was again off-target with his effort and the Qatari side had to settle for a point against the 10 men.