0534 GMT March 17, 2018
Esteghlal recorded a hard-fought 1-0 victory against 2017 runners-up Al Hilal thanks to an own goal from Abdullah Al Hafith in the clash of titans in the Omani capital of Muscat on Tuesday, the-afc.com reported.
Al Hilal came close to opening the scoring in the final minutes of the first half when new signing Achraf Bencharki set up Ali Al Bulayhi to cut inside and strike from the edge of box, but saw his shot saved by goalkeeper Mehdi Rahmati.
Esteghlal kicked-off the second half with a bang, taking the lead through an own goal by defender Abdullah Al Hafith after Mame Thiam’s effort on target was deflected off the defender to wrongfoot goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi just seconds after the restart.
The visitor’s troubles were doubled when goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi was sent off in the 67th minute after handling the ball outside his area.
Esteghlal travels to the UAE to face Al Ain on March 6, while Al Hilal’s Matchday Three fixture sees it hosting Qatar’s Al Rayyan.
A second successive brace from Baghdad Bounedjah powered Al Sadd to a 3-1 home win over Persepolis in their encounter in Group C on the same day.
Playing its first continental home game in three years, Jesualdo Ferreira's Al Sadd began the match on the front foot with the triumvirate of Xavi, Akram Afif and Bounedjah linking well in attack.
Al Sadd’s dominance paid off in the 36th minute when an unmarked Bounedjah surged into the box to meet Afif's cross and head in the first goal.
After ending the first period without a shot on target, Persepolis came into the second half looking to make amends.
However, the visitor’s hopes were dashed as Bounedjah got on the scoresheet once again in the 51st minute. A clever assist from Xavi set up the Algerian striker, who took his time in the box before netting with a curled finish for his fourth goal of the campaign.
The Qatari side added to its lead the 66th minute, as substitute Boualem Khoukhi scored with a stinging shot after being teed up by Ali Asad.
The host was denied a clean sheet deep into additional time after Persepolis struck a consolation goal through Siamak Nemati, with the very last kick of the game.
Al Sadd travels to Uzbekistan to face Nasaf on Matchday Three while Persepolis hosts the UAE's Al Wasl in Tehran.