Al Sadd, Al Ain play out six-goal thriller in AFC Champions League return

Xavi Hernandez's Al Sadd SC shared the spoils with Al Ain FC as the two sides returned to action in the AFC Champions League in a six-goal at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Doha on Tuesday.

Last season's semifinalists Al Sadd looked like the more formidable side on paper with players like Abdelkarim Hassan, Akram Afif and Baghdad Bounedjah on the teamsheet -- not to mention Santi Cazorla, the Spanish midfielder who signed last month after leaving La Liga outfit Villarreal.

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It was another new addition who stole the show on the field as Wilson Eduardo, Al Ain's import from Portugal's Sporting Clube de Braga, presented a low cross to Togo international forward Kodjo Laba and gave the Emiratis a surprise lead.

A shocked Al Sadd tried to hit back, but Al Ain goalkeeper Khalid Eisa made two excellent saves to deny close-range headers from first Boualem Khoukhi and then Ro-Ro. Al Sadd managed to float the ball back into the box following the second save for Afif to level the score in the 35th minute.

But Al Ain's response to the equaliser was swift and stunning. Kazakh midfielder Bauyrzhan Islamkhan unleashed a strike from distance that swerved and beat goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb on its way to the goal. Al Ain had regained the lead just three minutes after conceding at the other end.

Xavi's squad began the second half strongly and Cazorla marked his ACL debut with a low drive into the goal to make it 2-2 in the 55th minute before Bounedjah gave Al Sadd the lead for the first time in the fixture with a tap in from a Nam Tae-hee cross five minutes later.

Centre-back Khoukhi, who went close with headed efforts earlier in the tie, did manage to flick a header into the goal, but unfortunately at the wrong end, to make it 3-3 as his own goal gave 2003 champions Al Ain the first point of their ACL 2020 campaign.

Al Sadd remain second with five points -- two behind Al Nassr FC. The Saudi Professional League outfit beat IR Iran's Sepahan SC 2-0, courtesy of a brace from Moroccan striker Abderrazak Hamdallah.

Meanwhile, Group C has been thrown open after Tuesday's results as recently-crowned Qatar Stars League champions Al Duhail SC edged Sharjah FC 2-1 at the Education City Stadium to record their second win from three matches. Group leaders Al Taawoun FC lost 1-0 to Persepolis FC.

Almoez Ali opened the scoring for Al Duhail against Sharjah in the early kick off with a smart finish after he was played through on goal by Brazilian winger Dudu on quick break. The Red Knights doubled their advantage before the break with a spectacular free kick from Iranian winger Ramin Rezaeian.

Brazilian Igor Coronado reduced the deficit for Sharjah early in the second half from the penalty spot, but Duhail held on for the full points to make it six points from three games. They are now level on points with Al Taawoun who failed to add to their tally following the loss to Persepolis.

2018 ACL finalists Persepolis have not had much success in the competition recently winning only two of their last 11 games, but the Iran Pro League club dominated possession and created opportunities against Al Taawoun FC who had recorded wins in both of their previous group stage matches.

Defender Shoja Khalilzadeh's deflected effort in the 83rd minute gave the Red Army their first win of the season in Asia and moved them to just two points behind Al Taawoun and Al Duhail in the standings with the same fixtures set to repeat in the group on Friday.