By Michael Church
HONG KONG, April 17 (Reuters) – Goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh twice denied Omar Khribin in the dying minutes to earn debutants FC Goa a 0-0 draw with Al Wahda from the United Arab Emirates on Saturday and maintain their unbeaten start to the group stages of the Asian Champions League.
FC Goa, who are hosting games in group E at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, had matched the club from Abu Dhabi for much of the game, but Henk ten Cate’s side looked set to take the points as they increased the pressure late in the second half.
Khribin, winner of the 2017 Asian Player of the Year Award, was well placed to break the deadlock in the 90th minute only for Singh to block the Syrian’s effort.
The Indian goalkeeper went one better three minutes into injury time, punching the air in celebration as he again denied Khribin, this time at point-blank range.
Al Wahda secured their first point, having lost their opener on Wednesday against Persepolis from Iran.
In group B, Pakhtakor drew 0-0 with Air Force Club from Iraq as the Pieter Huistra-coached club from Uzbekistan claimed their second draw in two games in Sharjah.
The Asian Champions League has been increased from 32 to 40 teams for the 2021 edition, with the five groups in the west Asian half of the draw currently being played in a series of centralised biosecure venues.
The eastern side of the competition will be played in June and July, with the winners of the 10 groups advancing to the knockout phase of the competition alongside the six best runners-up.
The knockout rounds are due to kick off in September.
(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Clare Fallon)