Doha (AFP) – Boualem Khoukhi scored a brace as Qatar’s Al Sadd edged Saudi giants Al Ahli 2-1 in the first leg of their AFC Champions League round of 16 tie at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium on Monday.
Qatar international Khoukhi was on target as early as in the third minute, coolly scoring from close range after a fine pass from Xavi Hernandez as Al Sadd capitalised on a bright start and dominated the initial exchanges.
Al Ahli rallied with determination in a bid to find the equaliser but were denied twice in the space of a minute as Abdulfatah Asiri and Hussain al-Mogahwi saw their efforts cleared on the goalline.
But even as Al Ahli were asserting themselves, Al Sadd consolidated in the 28th minute with Khoukhi sending a powerful header past goalkeeper Mohamed al-Owais following an assist from Baghdad Bounedjah.
Al Sadd carried their two goal cushion into the second half but saw their advantage cut within two minutes of resumption, with Mohannad Aseri heading in cross from Amir Kurdi.
A feisty duel ensued after that but neither team managed to convert the chances that came their way, leaving the tie poised on a knife’s edge with all to play for in the return leg in Jeddah next Monday.
Meanwhile, Khalifa al-Hammadi struck a last-minute winner to help the UAE’s Al Jazira beat Iran’s Persepolis 3-2 in Abu Dhabi.
All of Al Jazira’s three goals came in the second half after Ali Alipour had put the Iranians ahead in the 42nd minute with a header of an assist from Vahid Amiri.
UAE star Ali Ahmed Mabkhout equalised for Al Jazira in the 52nd minute and then produced the assist for Romarinho to put their team ahead in the 77th minute.
Persepolis drew level with a penalty although Nigerian Godwin Mensha only managed to put the ball into the net on his second try after his shot was blocked by Al Jazira goalkeeper Ali Khaseif.
The Iranians thought they had secured a vital away draw but al-Hammadi last-gasp goal in the sixth minute of added time off a Mbarak Boussoufa free-kick handed Al Jazira the advantage ahead of the second leg next week in Tehran.