DUBAI (Dispatches) - Sepahan FC of Iran have begun thier 2020 AFC Champions League campaign on high note after easing past UAE’s AL Ain 4-0 in Group D at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium
Sepahan took a half-time lead courtesy of Mohammad Mohebbi’s header, while goals from Brazilian Kiros, Soroush Rafiei and Mohammad Tayebi sealed an emphatic victory.
Al Ain’s first chance came in the 18th minute when Kodjo Laba’s right footed shot from outside the box was saved by Sepahan goalie Payam Niazmand.
Laba caused problems for Sepahan again shortly after when the Togolese international came within striking distance from the counter-attack but Shayan Mosleh blocked his goal-bound effort.
Sepahan’s hard work paid off handsomely on 38 minutes when Mohebbi rose the highest to nod home the opener from close range off Saeid Aghaei’s cross.
Sepahan, meeting Al Ain for the first time in the competition, tightened their grip a minute after the restart thanks to Kiros’ quick feet inside the box when he pounced on an errant back pass to slot the ball past a full stretch Khalid Eisa.
Al Ain, the 2003 AFC Champions League winners, looked out of sorts as they began to give the ball away and fell further behind in the 52nd minute as Aghaei found an unmarked Rafiei, who blasted the ball into the bottom right corner to put Sepahan three goals up.
Sepahan inflicted more damage in the 78th minute through Tayebi’s header into the top left corner following Omid Noorafkan’s cross.
Sepahan will face Qatar’s Al Sadd SC, while Al Ain will be hoping to bounce back against Al Nassr of Saudi Arabia.
In AFC Champions League Group C, Persepolis have kick-started their 2020 campaign with a 2-nil away-defeat against al-Duhail.
With just five minutes into the match, Almoez Ali’s persistence coupled with a lack of discipline from Persepolis defenders allowed Mario Mandzukic to get his first goal in Asia’s premier club competition.
Persepolis could have scored the equalizer just four minutes later, only to be denied twice by al-Duhail keeper, Amine Lecomte.
The hosts went up again in the 13th minute, as they capitalized on another defensive mistake. This time it was their Brazilian winger, Edmilson, who fired home from a tight angle to give his team a 2-goal cushion.
With the second half wearing off, Persepolis’ chances became more serious, as Anthony Stokes was close to scoring on his continental debut, bit his effort forced a fine save by Lecomte, as al-Duhail held on for the 2-nil victory.