Al Ain progressing despite ACL exit: Ahmed - GulfToday

Al Ain progressing despite ACL exit: Ahmed

2020 AFC Champions League

Al Ain players celebrate after their win over Al Nassr at the AFC Champions League match on Thursday.

Doha: Captain Ismail Ahmed said Al Ain showed progress in their 1-0 win against Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr as they brought their 2020 AFC Champions League (ACL) Group D campaign to an end at the Education City Stadium on Thursday.

Al Ain claimed their first win in their final 2020 AFC Champions League match thanks to a 19th minute goal from Togolese forward Kodjo Laba as the UAE Pro League side ended a difficult campaign on a high.

“I want to thank my team-mates who played excellently against a strong team,” said Man of the Match Ahmed. “We showed our fans that despite going through a difficult period, we are a good side who can recover.

“The coach gave the chance to some young players and they performed well,” said the experienced defender. “We have a long season ahead and will need all the players.”

Khalid Eisa, who kept a clean sheet for the second consecutive match, said Al Ain should draw a lot of lessons from their 2020 AFC Champions League campaign.

“This win was after a long period of winless matches whether in the previous edition or the current campaign,” said the 31-year-old goalkeeper. “We are currently going through an extraordinary period.

“Any big club in the world can face similar conditions but the most important thing is to learn. We must give our best and fix our mistakes.”

Bandar Al Ahbabi revealed that Al Ain were not completely ready for the 2020 AFC Champions League but tried their best to finish the competition with a victory.

Al Nassr, who finished as Group D winners despite the defeat, will face fellow Saudi Arabia side Al Taawoun in the Round of 16, who defeated Qatar giants Al Duhail 1-0.

Australian striker Mitchell Duke shrugged off a head injury to put Al Taawoun into the ACL knockouts. Duke’s head was heavily bandaged after a clash with Al Duhail’s Almoez Ali minutes earlier, but he recovered to nod the winner from a corner on 86 minutes.

Al Taawoun’s second win over Al Duhail in the coronavirus-hit tournament put them into the round of 16 for the first time as the visitors advanced due to their head-to-head record, with both teams on nine points after six games.

And on a night when all four Group C teams had a chance of reaching the last 16, Iran’s Persepolis beat UAE outfit Sharjah 4-0 to join Al Taawoun in the knockouts.

Duke’s goal was the decisive act in a frenetic final 10 minutes at the Education City Stadium.

Earlier, Qatar’s Al Sadd and Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr both lost their final group games against already eliminated rivals.

Al Sadd were shocked 2-1 by Iran’s Sepahan, while Al Nassr went down 1-0 to former champions Al Ain. Qatar is serving as a hub for the AFC Champions League West Zone after the competition was thrown into chaos by the coronavirus pandemic. East Zone games are yet to resume.

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