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Sepahan stuns Al-Hilal in Riyadh
Wed, 02 Mar 2011 02:35:41 GMT
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Sepahan players celebrate a goal in their first match of the AFC Champions League 2011 against Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal.
Iranian league champion Sepahan has defeated Saudi giants Al-Hilal in their first match of the AFC Champions League 2011.

The Iranians beat the host 2-1 on Tuesday at King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh.

After a goalless first half, the match came to life when Sepahan's Senegalese striker Ibrahima Toure headed home the opener from close range in the 51st minute. A long throw bounced through Al-Hilal's box and found Toure unmarked at the far post and he directed a header into the back of the net.

A quarter of the way into the second half, Sepahan doubled the lead when Al-Hilal keeper Abdullah Alsdairy diverted Fabio Januario's corner shot into his own net.

Al-Hilal pulled one back in stoppage time when Christian Wilhelmsson found the net with a well-hit effort from the left.

The victory put Sepahan atop Group A with three points, two ahead of Al-Jazira and Al-Gharafa, which played to a goalless draw in Abu Dhabi.

Earlier in the day, Iranian club Esteqlal was held to a 1-1 draw against Al-Sadd of Qatar in their Group B opener at Tehran's Azadi Stadium.

Esteqlal captain Farhad Majidi took the lead for the Blues midway through the first half. The hosts then controlled the flow of the match until Ivorian striker Abdul Kader Keita scored the equalizer three minutes to the final whistle.

In the other Group B game, the match between Al-Nassr and Pakhtakor ended in a 2-2 tie.

In Group C, Al-Ittihad of Saudi Arabia will host Persepolis at Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Stadium in Jeddah on Wednesday.

Persepolis, the best supported club in Iran, is taking part in the AFC Champions League for just the third time. They won Iran's Hazfi Cup last year.

The Reds hope to end a two-decade trophy drought in Asia. At a pre-match press conference, Persepolis coach Ali Daei said he has a special plan for the game.

The Iranian side was the inaugural winner of the now defunct Asian Cup Winners Cup back in 1991 but has since failed to taste success outside Iran.

In Group D, Iranian team Zob Ahan is scheduled to host tournament newcomer Emirates of the UAE at Isfahan's Fouladshahr Stadium.

AS/JM/HGL
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