Al-Ittihad head coach Nuno Espirito Santo’s hopes of keeping his job suffered a blow as the Saudi Pro League side slumped to a 2-0 loss at Iraq’s Air Force Club in the Asian Champions League on Monday.
Second half goals from Ali Jasim and Mohannad Abdulraheem earned the home side a win that revitalises their chances of advancing to the knockout rounds from Group C, which Al-Ittihad still lead with nine points from four games.
Air Force are now only two points behind Espirito Santo’s big-spending outfit with the Portuguese coach under increasing pressure following a run of disappointing results domestically.
Al-Ittihad, who the former Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur manager led to the league title last year, are sixth in the Saudi standings, 11 points adrift of leaders Al-Hilal after 12 games.
Iran’s second-placed Sepahan also moved within two points of Al-Ittihad with a 9-0 demolition of 10-man AGMK in Tehran as seven different players got on the scoresheet.
Farshad Ahmadzadeh gave Jose Morais’ team an eighth minute lead and the Uzbek side collapsed in the second half, with Akramjon Komilov’s red card in the 66th minute helping to inflict further pain on Mirjalol Kasimov’s beleaguered outfit.
Al-Hilal continued their winning ways with a 2-0 victory over a stubborn 10-man Mumbai City side to sit top of Group D level on 10 points with Uzbekistan’s Navbahor after four games.
The Indian hosts frustrated their illustrious visitors until Mehtab Singh was sent off for a second booking nine minutes into the second half following a foul on Ruben Neves.
Al-Hilal capitalised when Brazilian winger Michael nodded in the opener in the 62nd minute before another header from Aleksandar Mitrovic five minutes from time sealed the win.
Navbahor kept the pressure on the Saudis with a comfortable 3-1 victory over Iran’s Nassaji Mazandaran in the Azadi Stadium in Tehran, with Oston Orunov scoring twice.
In Group B, Sharjah drew 1-1 at Uzbekistan’s Nasaf after Moussa Marega gave his side the lead having earlier seen Adel Al Hosani save Jambul Jighauri’s penalty for the hosts.
Mateus Lima levelled nine minutes from time before Sharjah’s Al Hosani was sent off and Nasaf also finished with 10 men after Alibek Davronov got a second yellow card in added time.
Sharjah lead the group with eight points, one ahead of Nasaf, while Qatari club Al Sadd’s hopes were hit with a 2-0 loss in Amman by Jordan’s Al Faisaly, who won through second half goals from Hatem Sultan and Aref Al Haj. REUTERS