4/26/2017 8:42:32 AM

SMOOTH SAILING

SMOOTH SAILING

ATTACKING midfielder Nam Tae-Hee continued his incredible form, netting a brace as Lekhwiya came from behind to defeat 10-man Al Jazira of the UAE 3-1 in a Group B match of the AFC Champions League and book their berth in the pre-quarterfinal with a match to spare.

Nam, who was the chief architect of Lekhwiya’s recent Qatar Stars League triumph, converted from the spot in the 25th minute to cancel out Mbark Boussoufa’s 16th-minute opener, which also came through a penalty. The Lekhwiya No.10 scored his second in the 62nd while substitute Youssef Msakni found the back of the net in the 77th to make it a convincing win.

The victory helped Djamel Belmadi’s men confirm their position as group winners with 11 points while Henk ten Kate’s Jazira, yet to taste a victory, remained at the bottom with a single point.

Iran’s Esteghlal Khouzestan and Saudi Arabia’s Al Fateh, who played a 1-1 draw in the other Group B match on Tuesday, are second and third respectively with eight and six points.

Lekhwiya, who crashed out of the Qatar Cup after losing to El Jaish in the semifinal last week, were in for a shock when Boussoufa put the hosts ahead by converting from the spot after Chico Flores brought down Khalfan Al Rezzi.

Lekhwiya regrouped quickly and restored parity nine minutes later. Al Moez Ali won a penalty when Yaqoub Al Hosani felled him inside the area and Nam blasted the ball home.

The game turned more lively, with both teams playing more aggressively.

Ismail Mohammed had a chance to put the Cops in front in the 33rd when Almoez set him up with a fine through ball, but keeper Ali Khaseif denied him with a full-stretched dive to his right. At the other end, Jazira rued their luck when Ahmed Husain hit the post.

Jazira looked more determined on resumption, but Lekhwiya did well to negate their attack.

Belmadi brought on Msakni on the hour mark and the Tunisian forward made an instant impact, setting up Nam with a fine pass. The South Korean cleverly beat the offside trap, controlled the ball with a deft first touch and beat keeper with a gentle left-footer.

Jazira’s fight virtually ended in the 67th when Fares Juma went out seeing a straight card for bringing down goal-bound Ismail while Msakni completed the rout scoring off a Khaled Muftah pass. 

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal and the UAE’s Al Ain progressed to the last 16 while Jiangsu Suning had already booked their berth. 

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