Iranian clubs Esteghlal FC and Shahr Khodro FC are one win away away from AFC Champions League 2020 group stages after recording wins in their Preliminary Round 2 matches held at neutral venues in United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Saturday.
The ties, which were originally scheduled to be held at the home grounds of the Iranian clubs, were moved to neutral venues by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) due to security concerns in IR Iran.
— #ACL2020 (@TheAFCCL) January 25, 2020
While Persian Gulf Pro League third-place finishers Esteghlal defeated Kuwait Premier League champions Kuwait SC 3-0, Shahr Khodro FC, who finished fourth in Iran last season, defeated Bahraini Premier League champions Riffa SC 2-1.
Esteghlal took the lead in the 27th minute through Mali international striker Cheick Diabate at the Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai before doubling their lead in the second half as 31-year-old Diabate scored his second of the night against Kuwait.
Wing-back Voria Ghafouri registered the third for the Iranian giants five minutes later to seal the 3-0 result and book a place in the play-off round of the AFC Champions League 2020.
Meanwhile, at the Sharjah Stadium, Shahr Khodro needed an 83rd-minute winner from Amin Ghaseminejad to defeat Riffa 2-1.
السماوي يخسر من فريق شهر خوردو الايراني ٢-١ ضمن الدور الملحق لدوري ابطال اسيا ٢٠٢٠ ويتجه للمشاركة في كاس الاتحاد الاسيوي وسجل هدف السماوي اللاعب الليبي صالح طاهر.
— نادي الرفاع البحريني (@Riffa_Club) January 25, 2020
Saleh Taher had equalised for the Bahraini club in the 35th minute after the Iranians had taken the lead through veteran forward Mohammad Reza Khalatbari in the 19th minute.
Esteghlal will now face Qatar Stars League side Al Rayyan SC at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Doha on January 28 while Shahr Khodro travel to Hamad bin Khalifa Stadium to take on another Qatari outfit Al Sailiya.
The winners of the two ties will make it to the group stages of the ACL 2020.
(Photo credit: AFC)