Abu Dhabi: Al Jazira lost their sole leadership of Group A in the AFC Champions League as they went down 1-0 at home to Esteghlal from Iran on Wednesday night.
Saudi Arabian Al Shabab jumped to first place in the group with 9 points after defeating Al Rayyan from Qatar 2-0 in Doha, Al Jazira are second with 7 points followed by Esteghlal with 4 while Al Rayyan are bottom with 3 points.
Al Jazira began the match pressing for an early goal and they almost achieved that objective but Ahmad Rabie, the young strik, and his more experienced colleague Ali Mabkhoot watched in dismay as they saw their serious attempts being saved brilliantly by Mahdi Rahmati, the visiting custodian, within the first 12 minutes.
Al Jazira dominated the match but failed to score goals and the fact that Abdul Aziz Barrada played before fully recovering from an injury made him not able to show his true worth while Felipe Caicedo was tightly marked by the Iranian defenders.
The failure of the home team to score encouraged the visitors to advance from their defensive shell and attack specially after the break and Ali Khaseef, the home captain and goalie, made some outstanding saves to keep them at bay till the 69th minute when
Mohammad Ghazi found the bottom of the net following a fast counter attacking move that caught the home defenders off guard.
Walter Zenga tried to strengthen the Al Jazira attacking force by bringing in Hassan Amin and Abdulla Qasim but his attempt did not succeed as his team ost for the first time to Esteghlal in 8 previous matches in the same competition. Al Jazira had won twice and drew five times before tonight.
Al Jazira still have big hopes of reaching the second round if they won the remaining two matches against Al Rayyan, away, and at home against Al Shabab. They have defeated both teams in the first round of the qualifiers.