Al Ittihad remain unbeaten in ACL
Former champions stay at the top of Group C as South Korea's Suwon lose to Shenhua.
Last Modified: 08 Apr 2009 14:44 GMT

Emirati al-Jazira's Ibrahim Diaky holds off al-Ittihad's Mohammed Nur [AFP]
Former champions Al Ittihad and Al Hilal from Saudi Arabia remained unbeaten in the Asian Champions League while another former two-time winner, Suwon Samsung Bluewings, endured their first defeat.

Al Ittihad were held to a 0-0 draw by United Arab Emirates' Al Jazira in Abu Dhabi, leaving them safe at the top of Group C.

Al Hilal who are based in Riyadh, against whom Al Ittihad will play for the Saudi Arabia league title this weekend, beat another Emirates club, Al Ahli 2-1 to stay second to Group A leader Pakhtakor, a 2-0 winner over Iranian hosts Saba Battery.

South Korea's Suwon lost 2-1 to Shanghai Shenhua, tightening up Group G which features three teams with six points.

J-League champions Kashima Antlers were the other victors after beating winless Armed Forces of Singapore 4-1.

Other results halfway through group play, were Umm Salal 1, Al Esteghlal 0; Nagoya Grampus 1, Newcastle Jets 1; and Ulsan Hyundai 1, Beijing Guoan 0.

Brilliant save

Al Ittihad had goalkeeper Mabrouk Zaid to thank for preserving the draw against Al Jazira at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.

Zaid brilliantly saved a close-range shot from Rafael Sobis with one hand, and collected another shot from Fernando Baiano after half-time in a one-on-one showdown.

With 11 minutes to go, Al Jazira were unlucky when Ibrahim Diaky's powerful drive rebounded off the bottom left upright, off Zaid's back and out for a corner.

The only goal in Doha became a tournament highlight when Magno Alves beat two Al Esteghlal defenders and fed Fabio Cesar, who beat two more and then fired past the charging goalkeeper in the 68th minute for Umm Salal's win.

With Al Ittihad on seven points and Umm Salal with six, the pair have opened a gap on Al Jazira with two and Al Esteghlal on one.

In Riyadh, visiting Al Ahli opened through Ahmed Khalil in the 13th minute.

Yasser al-Qahtani headed in the equaliser in the 32nd for Al Hilal, which decided the match four minutes into second-half injury time, when Mirel Radoi's penalty gave the club five points, just two behind Group A leader Pakhtakor.

Saba Battery were dominating Pakhtakor in Qom until midfielder Mohsen Yousefi was sent off for fouling Pakhtakor midfielder Darko Markovic in the 27th.

Pakhtakor needed a half-hour to take advantage, as substitute striker Zaynitdin Tadjiyev deflected in a right cross from Alexander Geynrikh. Farhod Tadjiev made it 2-0 with a low shot in the 65th.

Pakhtakor's next two games are in Uzbekistan, while Al Hilal will hit the road, offering hope to Saba Battery, who have two points, and Al Ahli with one.

Tight at the top

Asian Champions league

Tuesday April 7
Group A
Saba Battery (Iran) 0 - 2 Pakhtakor (Uzb)
Al Hilal (Saudi Arabia) 2-1 Al Ahli (UAE)

Group C
Umm-Salal (Qatar) 1-0 Esteghlal (Iran)
Al Jazira (UAE) 0-0 Al Ittihad (Saudi A)

Group E
N Grampus (Japan) 1-1 N'castle Jets (Aus)
U Hyundi (S Korea 1-0 B Guoan (China)

Group G
Armed Forces (Sing) 1-4 K Antlers (Japan)
S Shenhua (Chi) 2-1 Bluewings (S Korea)

Wednesday April 8
Group B
Sharjah (UAE) v Shabab (Saudi Arabia)
Piroozi Athletic (Iran) v Al Gharafa (Qatar)

Group D
Ettifaq (S Arabia) v Al Ahli (UAE)
Bunyodkor (Uzb) v Foolad Sepahan (Iran)

Group F
S Luneng (China) v FC Seoul (S Korea)
G Osaka (Japan) v Sriwijaya FC (Ind)

Group H
P Steelers (S Korea) v T Teda (China)
Mariners (Aus) v Kawasaki Frontale (Jap)

Group G could not be tighter with the top three teams all with one loss and six points, with Suwon ahead on goal difference from Kashima and Shanghai.

Shanghai struck first against Suwon in the 18th, with Yanko Valkanov heading in Vyacheslav Hleb's free kick.

Suwon tied the game in the 65th with a header from captain Li Weifing, but Hleb had the last say from a solo run in the 76th.

Kashima, who lost to Suwon and beat Shanghai, dismantled the hapless Armed Forces, with goalkeeper Sogahata Hitoshi even blocking a penalty.

Group E was also wide open with only Nagoya unbeaten, but only a point ahead of Beijing and Newcastle, and two points in front of Ulsan.

Keiji Tamada scored in the 65th for Nagoya with a free kick over the wall to salvage a 1-1 draw with Australia's visiting Newcastle.

Defender Tarek Elrich had opened after only nine minutes. Newcastle host the return match in two weeks.

Oh Jang-eun notched the only goal in the 69th, from a rebound off the crossbar, for Ulsan's first win in three matches, at Beijing's expense.

With six minutes remaining, Ulsan goalkeeper Kim Young-kwang saved a Huang
Bowen penalty to ensure the win for the Korean club.

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