Al Duhail continued their impressive march in the AFC Champions League quarter-finals Tuesday when the Qataris defeated Iranian side Persepolis 1-0 at home to match a six-year-old record of successive wins in the competition.
In another first-leg tie Tuesday, Japan's Kashima Antlers took a stranglehold in their tie against China's Tianjin Quanjian following a 2-0 win at the Kashima Stadium.
Having won all their matches in the group stages and then both legs of their round of 16, it was Al Duhail's ninth win in nine encounters, matching the 2012 record of Korean side Ulsan Hyundai.
At the Khalifa International Stadium, it was a battle between one of the most attacking teams in the competition –- Al Duhail have scored the second highest number of goals (21) in the AFC Champions League this year –- versus one of the tightest defences as Persepolis had conceded the least number of goals (seven).
The all-important goal was scored in the 15th minute by Almoez Ali, who leaped over lunging Persepolis goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand and headed in a well-measured cross from the left by Edmilson Junior.
The promising 24-year-old Belgian-Brazilian, who joined the Qatari club from Standard Liege this year, was a constant menace from the left flank.
He came close to scoring Al Duhail's second in the 67th minute with a searing run followed by a crisp right-footer from a difficult angle that just missed the mark.
Persepolis had a couple of close calls. Their best chance was in the 47th minute, a free-kick by Mohammad Ansari that sailed agonizingly over the crossbar, but they hardly had any attempt worth a mention in the second half.
Al Duhail then had another superb opportunity to extend their advantage in the 77th minute. A stunning free-kick from well outside the box by Lucas Mendes was tipped over the bar by goalkeeper Beiranvand, who had to stretch full length to get to the ball.
- Brazilian firepower -
Kashima's deserved victory came thanks to second-half strikes from Brazilian duo Leo Silva and Serginho.
Tianjin's Portuguese coach Paulo Sousa, who has endured a difficult debut season in the Chinese Super League, came to Japan intending to frustrate the hosts. But his unambitious approach fell apart on the hour when midfielder Silva popped up unmarked to fire in.
Kashima, who themselves are struggling in the J-League, pushed for a second goal to take back to China and they got it when Serginho rifled in from outside the box on 72 minutes.
Defeat was a disheartening conclusion to a rocky couple of days for Sousa and Tianjin after they got stuck in traffic and missed their flight to Japan in what is the club's first season in the Champions League since they were formed 12 years ago -- hardly the preparation for the biggest game in their short history.
Kashima travel to Tianjin for their away match on September 18, a day after Al Duhail's match in Teheran's Azadi Stadium against Persepolis.