Ahli and Persepolis share the spoils

A keen duel during the 2017 AFC Champions League quarterfinal match between Iran’s Persepolis and Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ahli in Muscat Tuesday. — AFP

MUSCAT — A late equalizer by substitute Godwin Mensha saw Islamic Republic of Iran’s Persepolis come from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ahli in the first leg of their 2017 AFC Champions League quarterfinal here Tuesday.

Al-Ahli took the lead after just two minutes at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex when Omar Al-Soma slotted home the rebound after Persepolis keeper Alireza Beiranvand parried a shot from Saleh Al-Jamaan into the Syrian striker’s path.

Shortly before the hour, recent signing Leonardo da Silva made it 2-0 for the Jeddah-based side by finishing off a pass from Al-Jamaan with aplomb, before Persepolis pulled one back in the 72nd minute after Shojae Khalilzadeh headed home from close in.

With just six minutes remaining, Nigerian Mensha fired past Mohammed Al-Owais in the Al-Ahli goal to cap an excellent comeback for Persepolis and leave the tie firmly in the balance ahead of the second leg in Abu Dhabi in three weeks’ time.

Earlier, Wu Lei scored twice as Shanghai SIPG comfortably defeated two-time Asian Champions League winner Guangzhou Evergrande 4-0.

Playing for the first time in the Asian Champions League since the departure of Brazilian midfielder Paulinho in a 40 million euro ($47 million) transfer to Barcelona last week, Evergrande was torn apart by Andre Villas-Boas’ side, which is now one game away from its first appearance in the semifinals.

SIPG scored in the 38th minute when Hulk made no mistake from the penalty spot. A minute into first half stoppage time, SIPG doubled its lead when Wang Shenchao was left unattended from close range to head in Hulk’s curling cross from the left.

Wu claimed his first goal of the game in the 62nd minute after linking up with substitute Elkeson, who heeled a return ball into the path of the China international who then fired his shot past Guangzhou goalkeeper Zeng Cheng.

Two minutes later, Wu struck again to leave Evergrande with a mountain to climb when the teams meet on Sept. 12, as he finished off a rapid break led by Hulk.

In the western half of the draw, last year’s runner-up Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates was held to a 0-0 draw by Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal in their quarterfinal first leg.

The two teams will face each other again on Sept. 11, with the winner meeting either Iran’s Persepolis or Al-Ahli, also of Saudi Arabia. — Agencies