Sport Airforce secure Champions League berth with shootout win
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By Michael Church
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Three-time AFC Cup winners Airforce Club joined Uzbekistan's AGMK and Al Wahda of the United Arab Emirates in the group stages of the Asian Champions League on Wednesday with a penalty shootout win over Al Wehda from Saudi Arabia.
Airforce's 3-2 win on penalties came after the teams had shared a 1-1 draw in their playoff in Mecca and takes the club from Iraq into the group stage of the continental championship for the first time since 2008.
Aymen Hussein's 92nd minute goal cancelled out Youssoufou Niakate's earlier effort for the club from Saudi Arabia and three missed penalties by Al Wehda took Airforce Club through.
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The Iraqis will play in group B against Sharjah from the UAE as well as Iran's Tractor and Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan when the competition's group phase begins next week.
AGMK, meanwhile, had a goal from Serbian midfielder Jovan Dokic in the final minute of extra time to thank for his side's 1-0 win over Qatar's Al Gharafa in Doha.
The club from Almalyk will now meet Tajikistan's Istiklol, Shabab Al Ahli of the UAE and 2019 champions Al Hilal from Saudi Arabia in group A.
Former Asian Player of the Year Omar Khribin was on target for Al Wahda from the UAE as they came back from going a goal behind to beat Iraq's Al Zawraa 2-1 in Abu Dhabi.
Alaa Abdul-Zahra had put Al Zawraa ahead a minute into the second half but Syrian forward Khribin levelled before Khalil Ibrahim hit the winner 13 minutes from time.
Al Wahda advance to play in group E, where they will meet last year's beaten finalists Persepolis of Iran, Al Rayyan from Qatar and India's FC Goa.
On Saturday, Iranian side Foolad will take on former champions Al Ain of the UAE in the last remaining playoff in Riyadh.
The group phase of the west Asian half of the continental competition will kick off on April 14, with the tournament in east Asia due to be played in June and July.
(Reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong; Editing by Christopher Cushing)
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