Doha (Qatar) (AFP) – Marcus Berg was twice on target as the UAE’s Al Ain advanced to the last 16 stage of the AFC Champions League with an emphatic 4-1 rout of Qatar’s Al Rayyan on Tuesday.
With Iran’s Estheglal already through from Group D, Tuesday’s match in Doha was a direct battle for second place but Michael Laudrup’s Al Rayyan came up woefully short against the better organised Emiratis who never lost control over the proceedings.
The defeat maintained Al Rayyan’s jinx as a team who have never cracked the group stage, as they finished third in Group D with six points in what was their eighth appearance in the continental competition.
Al Ain only needed a draw to make the cut in what was billed as a do-or-die match, but an 11th minute strike from Hussein El Shahat eased their nerves as they went on to assert their domination.
Brazilian Caio made a jinking run past several Al Rayyan players but his shot was fended off goalkeeper Oumar Barry onto the path of El Shahat who made no mistake from close range.
Al Rayyan could make no headway past the Al Ain defence despite their best efforts, and when UAE talisman Omar Abdulrahman curled in a magical free-kick 10 minutes after resumption, the hosts were really feeling the heat.
Berg added Al Ain’s third goal in the 58th minute off an assist from Japan’s Tsukasa Shiotani and then increased his personal tally in the 78th, this time off a cross from Caio.
Busy Qatari star Sebastian Soria pulled one back five minutes from time for the only bright spot of the night for Al Rayyan.
Estheglal, meanwhile secured the top spot in the group with a Vouria Ghafouri strike in the 36th minute giving them a 1-0 win over Saudi giants Al Hilal, who ended their campaign at the bottom of the table with just two points from six matches.
In Group C, already qualified Al Sadd of Qatar missed out on the top spot after an own goal by Morteza Pouraliganji gave Iran’s Persepolis a 1-0 win in Tehran.
The goal came in the third minute when Mohamed Ansari’s dangerous cross from the left flank was inadvertently diverted into the goal by Pouraliganji with his head.
Al Sadd only needed a draw to win the group but although Xavi, Boualem Khoukhi and Baghdad Bounedjah created a few chance they couldn’t convert any as Persepolis claimed the honours with 13 points
Also in Group C, Uzbekistan’s Nasaf beat the UAE’s Al Wasl 2-1 in Dubai but their total of 10 points were not enough to see them through.
The result saw Al Wasl earn the dubious distinction of finishing the group stage with no points, having lost all their six matches.