Late goal earns Al Sadd draw in Asian Champions League opener

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Michael Church
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By Michael Church

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Boualem Khoukhi's deflected strike earned Xavi Hernandez's Al Sadd a 1-1 draw with Foolad from Iran on Wednesday as the Qatari club launched their Asian Champions League campaign in Riyadh.

Khoukhi's 89th-minute effort was helped past goalkeeper Mohsen Forouzan via a deflection off Yusuf Abdurisag to cancel out Luciano Chimba's opener just after the hour mark in the Group D opener.

"I'm unhappy with the result we got," Spanish coach Xavi said. "We played against a difficult and effective team and we competed strongly."

The draw left all four teams in Group D level on one point following the first round of matches after tournament newcomers Al Wedhat from Jordan held Saudi Arabia's Al Nassr to a 0-0 draw.

FC Goa, another debutant in the group phase, picked up a point on home soil with a 0-0 draw against Qatar's Al Rayyan in Group E.

The pair trail Iranian side Persepolis, who defeated Al Wahda from the United Arab Emirates 1-0 earlier in the day with a Seyed Jalal Hosseini strike.

In Group B, hosts Sharjah moved to the top of the standings with a 1-0 win over Air Force Club from Iraq.

Khaled Bawazir latched on to Caio's angled pass to fire into the roof of the net from close range in the 62nd minute after Uzbekistan's Pakhtakor and Tractor from Iran had earlier shared a 3-3 draw.

Games in the western half of the competition's group phase will continue until April 30 in biosecure bubbles due to the ongoing pandemic, with the five group winners and three best-placed runners-up advancing to the last 16.

Clubs in east Asia will play their group matches in June and July, with the knockout rounds due to begin in September.

(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Ed Osmond)