UAE's Al Jazira defeated Weshley Sneijder-led Qatar’s Al Gharafa 3-2 in their opening Group ‘A’ fixture of the AFC Champions League at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium on Monday.
Al Jazira, thus, also ended their 15 games winless streak in the competition.
For the hosts, Brazilian Romarinho, Ali Mabkhout and Ahmed Husain Al Hashmi scored a goal apiece. For Gharafa, Mehdi Taremi and Sneijder scored.
Jazira goalkeeper Ali Khaseif was once again exceptional on the night as he came up with some of brilliant saves towards the end.
Al Jazira shot in the lead in the 10th minute after Brazilian mid-fielder Romarinho blasted the goal with a full-blooded effort from the right.
The lead, however, couldn’t last for even a minute. It seemed as if Al Jazira defenders were still in celebratory mood and Al Gharafa’s forward Taremi was allowed to take a free strike at the goal.
Though it was a setback, it didn’t hurt the hosts much as they managed to restore their lead by forcing another breakthrough with their sporadic raids in the 27th minute. Mabkhout was credited for the effort as he shot home after the ball rolled over the Al Gharafa custodian Qasem Abdullhamed Burhan when the latter appeared to be blinded by a defender in front.
After the change of ends, though Mabkhout missed an open goal early to double his tally, Al Hashmi made it 3-1 by sending his right-footed effort from outside the box to the top left corner in the 69th minute.
Former Real Madrid star Sneijder then showed his old class by finding the goal with a left footed strike in the 71st minute to make it 3-2.
By N.D. Prashant
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