Al Ain: Mohammadreza Abbasi’s 76th minute header earned Zobahan a 1-1 draw with inaugural ACL winners Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday to leave the teams’ 2016 AFC Champions League Round of 16 tie delicately balanced going into next week’s second leg.
Douglas netted nine minutes into a game controlled by the 2003 champions, but Zlatko Dalic’s side will be left to rue their inability – once again – to turn their dominance into goals after seeing Abbasi claim a vital equaliser.
The two teams will face off in Ishfahan next Wednesday, with Zobahan holding a slender advantage thanks to Abbasi’s header, which came about as a result of a defensive mix-up between goalkeeper Khalid Eisa and former AFC Player of the Year nominee Ismail Ahmed.
Al Ain were on the front foot from the first whistle and in the eighth minute Zobahan captain Ghasem Hadadifar was twice called upon to make clearances off the line, first after a shot from Mohamed Abdulrahman and immediately after by Lee Myung-joo.
Within a minute, however, the home side had taken the lead. Felipe Bastos’ cross from the left made its way through to the far side of the six yard box from where Ismail Ahmed steered the ball into the path of Douglas, and the forward made no mistake from three yards out.
Zobahan threatened little in the opening 45 minutes, save for a weak header from Morteza Tabrizi. And with just six minutes left in the half, Al Ain should have doubled their lead only for Mohamed Abdulrahman’s shot – after a strong run down the right by Danilo Asprilla – to come back off the crossbar following a fingertip save by Mohammadrashid Mazaheri.
Tabrizi was inches away from levelling the scores just before the hour mark and Kaveh Rezaei curled his attempt narrowly beyond the top corner of Eisa’s goal as Zobahan sought out the equaliser before Omar Abdulrahman left fly with a left foot attempt from 25 yards that was also marginally off target.
But with 14 minutes to go, the Iranians pulled themselves level on the night and claimed what could be a vital away goal when a mix-up between goalkeeper Eisa and defender Ahmed contributed to Abbasi’s downward header crossing the line via Eisa’s shoulder.
Omar Abdulrahman attempted to restore his side’s advantage with the final kick of the game, but his curling shot from outside the area was collected by Mazaheri as Zobahan held on.