Lekhwiya Defeated in ACL
AIN, UAE: Asamoah Gyan netted the winner as former AFC Champions League winners Al Ain got their 2014 campaign off to promising start with a 2-1 victory over Qatari visitors Lekhwiya in their opening Group C fixture at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium on Wednesday.
The powerful Senegalese forward slammed home a rising drive on 65 minutes after team-mate Diaky Ibrahim had seen his 12th minute opener levelled by Lekhwiya’s Vladimir Weiss six minutes before half-time.
The inaugural champions will be joined at the top of Group C by Tractorazi Tabriz after Al Ittihad fell to a 1-0 defeat in Iran in the group’s other fixture after Tabriz striker Karim Ansarifard scored the game’s only goal with eight minutes remaining.
A lively opening to proceedings in the United Arab Emirates saw Slovakian winger Weiss give early warning off his blistering pace with several rapid forays down the Al Ain left flank as the 2013 quarter-finalists displayed their attacking intentions right from the kick-off.
Against the run of play, however, it was Al Ain who opened the scoring on 12 minutes as a long range effort from Mirel Radoi careened off the post to fall kindly at the feet of Ibrahim and the midfielder needed no second invitation to fire home the game’s first goal.
Looking for an immediate response, the Qatari side went close to a leveller just four minutes later when Madjid Bougherra found himself unmarked at a corner whipped in my Weiss, but the former Glasgow Rangers defender could only direct his header back at Khalid Eisa in the Al Ain goal.
A cleaner execution was to follow with five minutes to half-time, however, when Weiss again set off on a penetrating run into the Emirati backline before lifting a sumptuous curling effort over Eisa and into the top corner to tie the scores.
Soon after the restart, it was Weiss who went close to another spectacular goal with a free-kick from a central position 25-yards out that whistled narrowly over the Al Ain goal.
However shortly after the hour mark Yassine El Ghanassy gave notice of the home side’s threat as he cut in from the right and drove a low shot just wide of Claude Amine’s right-hand post, a warning that was not heeded by the visitors as in the very next attack Al Ain took the lead.
On 65 minutes Ahmed Barman robbed Korea Republic midfielder Nam Tae-hee just inside the Lekhwiya half and slid in an inviting pass for Gyan to stride onto and lashed a rising shot past the onrushing Eisa that clipped the underside of the crossbar as it bulged the back of the net.
Lekhwiya struggled to recover from that body blow, and their hosts could have increased their lead further three minutes from time when Ibrahim combined with El Ghanassy to set himself through on goal but this time Amine won the contest, standing strong and blocking the ball.