Tags :  NasafACLAl Ain
Karshi: Danilo Asprilla’s fine solo effort helped inaugural winners Al Ain edge closer to the last 16 of the AFC Champions League as the United Arab Emirates side secured a 1-1 draw with Uzbekistan’s Nasaf in Group D on Tuesday.

Needing to avoid defeat at Karshi Central Stadium to remain in the competition, Nasaf opened the scoring almost immediately through defender Maksud Karimov before Colombian Asprilla restored parity for the visitors shortly after the half-hour mark.

Both sides had chances to win it after the interval with Azamat Allaniyazov spurning a wonderful opportunity for Nasaf and the visitors’ Douglas seeing his headed goal flagged offside as the tie ended level.

“The game was very difficult for us,” said Al Ain coach Zlatko Dalic. “We conceded an early goal but we were able to come back in to game. We showed our character, and we equalised as a result.

“We created many chances in the first half, but we couldn’t use them. Nasaf tried to change the game and to win the match in the second half. All the teams have kept alive their chances of going to the next stage.

“Everything is in our hands. We need just three points to qualify to the Round 16.”

Nasaf went in front in the first minute when captain Artur Gevorkyan’s corner from the right was flicked on by Bobir Abdixolikov and stabbed home by Karimov at the back post for his second of the tournament.

Al Ain responded well, though, and captain Ibrahim Diaky forced goalkeeper Eldorbek Suyunov into a sharp save on the quarter hour mark when he fired left-footed from a tight angle.

As an open game ensued Bakhrom Abdurakhimov made space for himself on the edge of the area but his powerful 25th-minute effort was pushed to safety by keeper Khalid Eisa.

But the Emiratis then drew level on 32 minutes when forward Asprilla burst infield from the right, nipped past Karimov and drove into the box before drilling past Suyunov into the bottom right corner.

The Colombian could have doubled his tally three minutes later when he dinked over Suyunov and wide before the Nasaf custodian saved Diaky’s close-range attempt as half-time approached.

Nasaf started the second half strongly although were restricted to efforts from distance that were comfortably dealt with by the Al Ain backline.

But the hosts should have gone in front in the 59th minute when Azizjon Ganiev’s perfect delivery from the right came off Allaniyazov’s shoulder and out as he attempted to head goalwards from just a few yards.

Brazilian Fellipe Bastos’ free-kick from fully 40-yards-out then drew Suyunov into a flying save midway through the half before his fellow countryman Douglas had a goal ruled out for offside as the Emiratis cranked up the pressure.

Nasaf again came close with 15 minutes remaining when Abdixolikov wriggled through the Al Ain defence only to see Eisa pull off a fine fingertip save to deny his goal-bound effort.

“We saw tonight that Al Ain is a strong team,” said Nasaf coach Ruzikul Berdiev. “We tried to fight them on the field and I am satisfied with my team and I say thanks to my players.

“We scored an early goal, then we gave the advantage to Al Ain. Our opponents created several opportunities and that was a big mistake from our side. We still have a chance and we will continue to battle.”


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