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Fri 25 Sep 2009 03:04 PM

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Saudi's Al Ittihad grab Asian Champs League edge

Defender scores crucial goal to secure his side a 1-1 draw versus Pakhtakor.

Saudi's Al Ittihad grab Asian Champs League edge
(Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia's Al Ittihad grabbed a crucial away goal when defender Saleh Al Saqri scored 19 minutes from time to secure his side a 1-1 draw at Uzbekistan's Pakhtakor in the Asian Champions League quarter-finals on Thursday.

Serbian midfielder Milan Nikolic had given the hosts a sixth-minute lead in the first leg clash, but Al Saqri equalised in the 71st minute off a deflection.

"We tried to play for a win until the end of the game but sometimes this happens," said Gabriel Calderon, Al Ittihad's Argentine coach.

"We deserved to win. In the second match in Saudi Arabia we will only play for a win despite having an away goal."

Pakhtakor boss Viktor Djalilov said: "I think a draw is a fair result as we had clear chances to score. Al Ittihad also had their chances but if you count them, I think the right result is a draw."

On Wednesday, Kawasaki Frontale battled back from a goal down to beat fellow J-League side Nagoya Grampus 2-1 in the first leg of their tie.

Australian striker Joshua Kennedy headed home in the 27th minute for Nagoya but Japan midfielder Kengo Nakamura pulled one back for Kawasaki on the hour mark and Brazilian striker Juninho put them ahead three minutes later.

Kawasaki, who have not lost to Nagoya in their recent nine encounters, go to Nagoya in the return leg on September 30 to vie for a semi-final berth in the top Asian club competition.

"We had a few chances but could not put them away in the first half," Kawasaki coach Takashi Sekizuka said.

"Kengo's goal shook the kinks out of our play and helped us regain our usual rhythm."

But he cautioned: "We are only halfway through."

Nagoya's Serbian coach Dragan Stojkovic predicted an exciting return leg.

"We must play hard and aggressively against the fast-moving Kawasaki players," he said. "I really think it will be as interesting as today's match."

Kawasaki beat 2008 champions and fellow J-League side Gamba Osaka to reach the quarter-finals. In the 2007 quarter-finals they lost to Iran's Sepahan after a penalty shoot-out.

In other quarter-final matches, Umm Salal of Qatar beat South Korea's FC Seoul 3-2 and Uzbek side Bunyodkor defeated another South Korean club, Pohang Steelers, 3-1.

Bunyodkor, now managed by former Brazil and Chelsea coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, fell behind due to No Byung-jun's eighth minute opener.

But Scolari then watched as reigning AFC Player of the Year Server Djeparov turned in two Jasur Hasanov crosses inside the final 11 minutes at JAR Stadium after Victor Karpenko had pulled the home side level before half-time.

Scolari's side were helped when Pohang lost defender Kim Hyung-il to a red card just after the hour mark.

The Brazil 2002 World Cup winning boss said: "It was a very important game to win.

"There were moments in the match when they were the better side and sometimes when Bunyodkor were the better side, we both played beautiful football."

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