Omar, Berg on form as Al Ain cruise into Round of 16

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Omar Abdulrahman and Marcus Berg were in inspired form as Al Ain booked their place in the AFC Champions League Round of 16 with a 4-1 triumph over Al Rayyan.

It was Hussein El Shahat who got Al Ain on their way at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in the 11th minute, converting on the rebound after Caio’s initial effort had been parried by Oumar Barry.

Ten minutes into the second half, a moment of brilliance from Omar saw the visitors double their lead as he curled a sublime freekick from the edge of the box into the top corner.

Then, it was Berg who took over as he added a third three minutes later when he was picked out by Tsukasa Shiotani’s inch-perfect ball across the face of goal and found the bottom corner, before beating Barry with another clinical finish in the 78th minute after being slipped through by Caio from a lightning-quick counterattack.

The hosts did pull one back with five minutes remaining as Mohammed Al-Alawi was sent racing down the left by Abdulrahman Al-Harazi, and whipped in a low cross that was slotted home by Sebastian Soria.

However, the night belonged to Al Ain, who went on to claim the win to secure a top-two finish in Group D – as well as a place in the knockout round – in some style.

Still, it was not enough to see them finish top as Esteghlal staved off their challenge by beating already-eliminated Al Hilal 1-0 to finish top by two points.

The only goal at the Al Kuwait Sports Club Stadium came in the 36th minute when Server Djeparov’s left-wing delivery was miscued by Yaseer Al-Shahrani at the back post, paving the way for Vouria Ghafouri to pounce and fire past Ali Al Habsi.

The result also meant more misery for Al Hilal on the continental stage as they finished the campaign without a win just five months from their runners-up in 2017, and days after they retained the Saudi Professional League title.