MAKKAH — Al Ittihad claimed victory over Sepahan FC with a 2-1 scoreline, securing their position at the top of Group C in the AFC Champions League 2023/24 in a thrilling match at King Abdulaziz Stadium on Monday.
Al Ittihad's triumph earned them 15 points in the group stage, while Sepahan finished in second place, trailing by five points, with their hopes for the Round of 16 hanging in the balance.
The home team took an early lead in the 15th minute with Saleh Al Amri's sensational free-kick from the right side of the box.
The forward's curled effort found the top corner, leaving Sepahan's goalkeeper, Payam Niazmand, with no chance of saving it.
Fabinho had an opportunity to double Al Ittihad's lead 10 minutes later but couldn't direct his header on target from Jota's free-kick.
Despite Sepahan's attempts, especially from Milad Zakipour, Al Ittihad comfortably dealt with their threats and crosses in the first half.
As half-time approached, Farshad Ahmadzadeh appeared to bring down Abderrazak Hamdallah in the box, leading to a penalty decision initially.
However, VAR intervened and overturned the decision after reviewing a different angle.
In added time, Sepahan almost equalized as Reza Asadi had two chances inside the box, but goalkeeper Abdullah Al Muaiouf made crucial saves to deny the Iranian side.
The first was a quick reaction low save to his right, followed by pushing away Asadi's close-range strike.
Three minutes into the second half, Sepahan leveled the score as Ramin Rezaeian headed home a long ball from Mohammed Daneshgar, capitalizing on a defensive lapse by Al Ittihad.
Sepahan continued to exploit their strengths, crossing balls from the left-hand side, causing trouble for Al Ittihad.
However, the hosts regained the lead with 20 minutes left, as Al Amri set up Jota to score his first AFC Champions League goal.
Sepahan's Rezaeian attempted to equalize with a free-kick similar to Al Amri's in the first half, but Al Muaiouf once again made an acrobatic save, securing victory for Al Ittihad.
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