Saudi Arabia winger Abdulrahman Ghareeb scored a late winner in the second half injury time to send Al Ahli Saudi FC through to the knockout stages of the AFC Champions League 2019 at the expense of Pakhtakor Tashkent.
Having began the final matchday in Group D with a two-point advantage over Al Ahli, Pakhtakor only had to avoid defeat against the Saudis at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah while the home side had to collect all three points to make the Round of 16.
And that is exactly what the Saudi Professional League club went and did in dramatic fashion as Syria international striker Omar Al Soma and Saudi international Ghareeb scored in the second half to rescue all three points and further progress.
FT: Al Ahli 🇸🇦 2-1 🇺🇿 FC Pakhtakor
— AFC Champions League (@TheAFCCL) May 20, 2019
It looked like the Saudis had lost it when Uzbekistan international forward Igor Sergeev scored an equaliser for Pakhtakor with just two minutes left on the clock. However, with Al Ahli staring at elimination after coming so close, substitute Ghareeb grabbed the headlines with the injury-time winner.
The Uzbekistani club had began the game brightly with a couple of early chances falling for Khojiakbar Alijonov whose efforts in the sixth and seventh minutes failed to find the back of the net.
Lanky attacker Al Soma also had a couple of attempts at goal later in the half as Al Ahli players would have smelt blood as they headed back onto the pitch for the second 45 minutes. And it was the prolific Syrian who broke the deadlock in the 69th minute as Al Ahli leapt to the second spot in Group D.
— النادي الأهلي السعودي (@ALAHLI_FC) May 20, 2019
The game was heading for the final whistle and it looked like the Uzbeks had spoilt a big chance to reach the knockout stages of the ACL when Sergeev struck with a close range effort in the 88th minute.
However, the Tashkent-based club’s celebrations were short-lived as Ghareeb scored in the second minute of the injury time to send his side through to the Round of 16 to be held in August.
Earlier, Al Sadd, with 10 points, had progressed to the knockouts as Group D winners despite a 2-0 defeat to Persepolis in their final group match. Al Ahli finished runners-up with nine points while it was a case of so close, yet so far for Pakhtakor as they finish third with eight points. Perspeolis took the bottom spot with seven.