Al Ahli and Guangzhou Evergrande battle to stalemate in ACL final first leg

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Al Ahli Guangzhou Evergrande AFP

Al Ahli and drew 0-0 in an absorbing first leg of their final at the Al-Rashid Stadium in Dubai on Saturday night.

The goalless draw leaves the title-race well still in the balance but gave a precious away point for Luiz Felipe Scolari’s visiting side to have a slender advantage heading into the return leg at home in a fortnight’s time.

Chinese Super League champions proved the better side, dominating the game and having more opportunities than the giants including Huang Bowen’s attempt that cannoned back off the underside of the crossbar early in the second half the closest either team went to breaking the deadlock.

But, the Red Knights also defended gallantly throughout to hold Guangzhou at bay as Cosmin Olariu’s men maintained their undefeated streak in all competitions to 19 games, which includes eight outings in the continental campaign.

“It was a tough, difficult game. We know Guangzhou are very physically strong and unfortunately we started the game with a lot of pressure,” said Romanian coach Olariu after the game.

“We didn’t score, but we played better in the second half and we had more possession and kept the ball down and played how we wanted to play. I am happy and now we move to the decisive game in Guangzhou.”

On the other side, Scolari insisted that his side fell short of expectations and urged the Southern Tigers to perform better in the return leg at Tianhe Sport Centre Stadium.

“It was an even match, both teams had chances to score but both did not score and the second half in Guangzhou will be a fight,” the Brazilian tactician claimed.

“If we still play like this it will be difficult for us, we did not play well tonight. I think tonight is a fair result as I did not see our team create a lot of chances. The pressure is still the same for both of the teams.”