Doha: Rodrigo Tabata played a hero and a villain in equal measure as Al Rayyan were held to a 2-2 draw by Iran’s Esteghlal in their opening match in Group D of the AFC Champions League on Tuesday.
Rayyan captain Tabata scored an own goal right at the start before inspiring his team to a brilliant comeback by setting up a goal for his strike partner Abderrazzaq Hamdallah and scoring another himself. But he then saw a second yellow card and got marching orders allowing Esteghlal to capitilise on their numerical advantage and score the equaliser right at the death.
Esteghlal had a bright start and took the lead in the sixth minute when Server Djeparov’s cross from the left into the danger area hit Tabata’s foot and went inside the goal.
Rayyan appeared frustrated with the early setback with Tabata especially looking agitated, arguing with referee Dilan Perera when a couple of decisions went against them.
Tabata tested the referee’s patience once too often and got himself a yellow card for pushing Djeparov in the 13th minute.
But Ryyan were a celebrating bunch within five minutes as Hamdallah linked up with Tabata to score the equaliser.
Hamdallah was too quick for Pejman Montazeri and the Iran captain conceded a freekick in his attempt to stop a move through the middle. Tabata’s indirect kick caught Esteghlal defence napping and Hamdallah headed in to draw level.
The goal gave Rayyan rhythm and they doubled their lead ten minutes later after a beautifully worked move.
Sebastian Soria’s glancing header off an Ahmed Yassir long ball from defence released Hamdallah and the striker waited for his captain to arrive before presenting it to him on a platter. Tabata obliged and had no trouble beating Esteghlal keeper Seyed Hossein.
Soria had a chance to increase the lead but could not beat the advancing keeper.
At the other end, Esteghlal too had a great chance but Rayyan goalkeeper Omar Barry made a stunning save to deny Jaber allowing the Lions to take their advantage into the halftime.
Rayyan did not let their advantage slip as Hamdellah tested Syed Hossein Hosseini with a powerful grounder in the 65th minute, but the Esteghlal keeper dived to his right to make a finger-tip save.
However, Tabata saw his second yellow card in the 81st minute and the Iranians found themselves a foothold.
Hamdallah could have punished them with another goal, but his acrobatic volley off a cross from substitute Mohsine Moutaouali was wide of the target.
Two minutes later Ghorbani Ali headed in Omid Ebrahimi’s cross to save the day for them.
Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal take on UAE’s Al Ain in the other Group D match later in the day.
Meanwhile in Group C Baghdad Bounedjah scored a brace, including a last-gasp winner, as Al Sadd rallied from a goal down to beat Al Wasl 2-1.