Substitute Abdulrahman Ghareeb scored deep in added time to send Al Ahli Saudi FC into the 2019 AFC Champions League Round of 16 with a 2-1 win over Pakhtakor at King Abdullah Sport City Stadium in Jeddah on Monday, AFC website reported.
Al Sadd had already booked one ticket to the knock-out stage from Group D, leaving Al Ahli and Pakhtakor to battle for the second spot. With eight points to their name, the visitors needed just a draw from the Matchday Six fixture to advance, while for Al Ahli only a win would do.
Pakhtakor started on the front foot, and Khojiakbar Alijonov hit the side netting from close distance after being set-up by a Dostonbek Khamdamov through pass six minutes into the game.
The home side gradually came into the match and mustered their first real chance in the 26th minute through Abdulfattah Asiri who cut inside from the right wing and fired a powerful drive that cannoned off the crossbar and out for a goal kick.
There were to be no goals in the opening period. Omar Al Somah came closest in the final proceedings of the half, forcing a punching save from goalkeeper Sanjar Kuvvatov after a powerful free-kick.
Al Somah finally broke the deadlock for the hosts. Asiri found Djaniny in space down the right, and the Cape Verdean crossed for Al Somah who guided home a towering header to put Al Ahli in the lead with 20 minutes to go.
With just two minutes to the end of 90, Farrukh Sayfiev intercepted the ball deep into Al Ahli’s half and supplied Dragan Ceran who sent a low ball across the mouth of goal for Igor Sergeev who was left with a simple tap in at the far post to swing the game in Pakhtakor’s favor.
As the few Uzbek fans at King Abdullah Sport City Stadium prepared to celebrate qualification to the Round of 16 for the first time since 2010, Ghareeb controlled the ball on the edge of the area after the Pakhtakor defense failed to deal with a cross. The 22-year-old fired into the bottom corner to secure the win and a place in the next stage for Al Ahli.
The result means Al Ahli finish in second place with nine points, setting up a Round of 16 clash with domestic rivals Al Hilal, while group leaders Al Sadd will face their own compatriots Al Duhail in the next stage. Pakhtakor's run of early elimination is extended to a ninth year.