AFC – Iranian champions Foolad Khouzestan extended their undefeated record in the AFC Champions League to 11 games after sharing a 0-0 draw with last year’s runners-up Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.
The Group C stalemate, though, does mean that Foolad are yet to post a win in the 2015 edition after they recorded a third consecutive tie having also split the points with Al Sadd of Qatar and Uzbekistan’s Lokomotiv.
Al Hilal, too, had been looking for a response to their defeat a fortnight ago to Al Sadd in Doha but Greek coach Giorgos Donis, appointed earlier this month, is still yet to enjoy a victory on the continent with his new club.
Cheered on by a partisan crowd at Ahwaz’s Ghadir Stadium, Foolad had the game’s first chance inside the opening 10 minutes as Al Hilal goalkeeper Khalid Sharahili’s punch from a corner landed at the feet of Sasan Ansari, but the forward could only direct his shot over the crossbar.
The hosts continued to edge proceedings but last year’s runners-up began to take control and could have gone ahead through a trio of chances within three minutes of each other.
First Khalid Kaabi should have put the visitors in front on 25 minutes but he shot straight at goalkeeper Alireza Salimi from seven yards out after receiving a cross from Greece forward Georgios Samaras.
Then it was defender Abdulla Al Dossary’s turn to go close shortly after as his header from Thiago Silva’s corner needed a smart save from Salimi to push the ball round the post.
Brazilian playmaker Thiago Silva then went close to scoring himself two minutes before the half hour mark as the set piece specialist drove a free-kick just wide from 25 yards out.
Foolad did have the half’s final opportunity to break the deadlock with two minutes remaining, though, as Esmaeil Sharifat ran on to a ball over the top from Mohsen Mosalman and through on goal but he did not connect well with his shot which went straight at Sharahili.
The second half began in cagey fashion but the Iranian side began to set the tempo and had two fine chances just before the hour mark.
Only an inspired block on the line by defender Yasir Al Shahrani kept out Mohammad Ghazi’s goal-bound header from a corner barely a minute before Cameroonian forward Mathias Chago’s shot across Sharahili was denied by the left-hand upright.
Both teams were intent on making the breakthrough as the game entered its final 10 minutes with attacking players Soroush Rafiei for Foolad and Al Hilal’s Yousef Al Salem entering the field.
Yet neither could make a significant impression on the game, with Thiago Neves’ wayward free-kick from a promising position in the dying minutes symptomatic of a frustrating game for both sides.