AFC Cup 2017 Review: Bengaluru strike late in Maldives; Al Jaish beaten again by Al Zawra'a
With twenty-two teams taking to the field in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup 2017 on Tuesday, we bring you all that has happened in the continent's secondary club competition:
AL JAISH 0-3 AL ZAWRA'A [Abdulraheem 48', 89' Mhawi 68']
Mohannad Abdulraheem did the star turn as Iraq's Al Zawra'a waylaid Al Jaish 3-0 in Syria to go top of Group A on Tuesday. With the first and second-placed teams taking to the field, a tight contest was expected and a goalless first half stayed true to expectations.
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But Al Zawra'a came out after the break with clear intent and made it count just three minutes in when Abdulraheem headed home Nadim Sabag's long ball forward on the run. From there on, the home team did not get much breathing space as Alaa Mhawi doubled the advantage in the 68th minute with a low drive from around 18 yards. Abdulraheem would then bag his brace in the 89th minute with another header, this time from Hussein Ali's lofted centre.
It sealed another three points for the Iraqi side over their Syrian rivals, after defeating Al Jaish at home 3-1 in the previous fixture. The win took them atop Group A with eight points while Al Jaish are stuck on six points.
AL AHLI 2-1 AL SUWAIQ [Malick 62' Al Essawi 76' - Al-Sheyadi 55']
Jordan's Al Ahli came back from a goal down to defeat Al Suwaiq 2-1 at home and make up ground on the group leaders. There was pressure on both teams to win this tie, having played out a goalless tie in the previous fixture that did neither side any favours.
The first half saw neither a goal nor any clear-cut chance but the second half had plenty to offer. The away side took the lead in the 55th minute when Yaseen Al-Sheyadi took advantage of some scrappy defending from the home team to knock in a rebound off a cross which was dealt with poorly from close range. But the Jordanians wasted no time in hitting back. Seven minutes later, Tall Malick ran on to a neat throughball from midfield and knocked in a finish despite a defender's attempt to put him off.
Al Ahli built on that confidence-boosting goal and got their winner in the 76th minute through Ahmad Al Essawi who glanced a header into the top corner from a deep cross from the left. The result left Al Ahli in third place with five points, one behind Al Jaish in second spot.
SAHAM 1-1 AL WEHDAT [Shafi (OG) 29' - Faisal 84']
Group leaders Al Wehdat were spared their blushes after a late equaliser helped them salvage a point after a 1-1 result in Oman on Tuesday.
The Jordanians had a horror start to the game when they conceded a comical own goal just before the half-hour mark. Saham midfielder Jildemar's deflected shot was spilled into his own goal by Al Wehdat goalkeeper Amer Shafi, who was promptly substituted seven minutes later. Meanwhile, Saham goalkeeper Sulaiman Al Breiki was in inspired form and pulled off a couple of brilliant saves.
Just as it seemed like Al Wehdat were heading towards their first defeat of the campaign, Baha Faisal brought them back on level terms six minutes before the end of normal time. The midfielder's volley from inside the box was too powerful for Al Breiki. The point meant that Al Wehdat continued their reign atop the group but have seen Al Muharraq close the gap on them to just a single point.
AL MUHARRAQ 1-0 NEJMEH SC [Rashed 90+9']
Jamal Rashed's dramatic winner deep into injury time handed Al Muharraq a vital win at home against Nejmeh SC in a Group C encounter on Tuesday.
The Bahraini side had nothing to show for after about 90 minutes of frustration against Nejmeh, who were desperate for points themselves and kept Al Muharraq at bay until the fag end of the game. There were dramatic scenes prior to the winner when Nejmeh custodian Ahmad Taktook was sent off in the second minute of injury time for a foul on Ismaeel Abdulatif outside the area. After Abdullatif was treated and Taktook left the field, Jamal Rashed stepped up and sent the resulting free-kick into the top corner with a sumptuous left-footed strike.
The win takes Al Muharraq to within a point of group leaders Al Wehdat.
DORDOI FC 1-0 FC ALAY [Azizov 87']
A late goal from Alisher Azizov was all that Dordoi FC required to settle the Kyrgyz derby against FC Alay on Tuesday and reach within touching distance of the group leaders.
Dordoi FC were also helped by an early red card to Alay midfielder Murolimjan Ahmedov in the 18th minute for a stamp on Dordoi full-back Marat Adzhiniiazov. In what was a game bereft of many chances, Dordoi could not press home their numerical advantage until late on when Anatolli Vlasichev cut open a gritty Alay defence in the 87th minute with a splendid cross which was headed home by Azizov to seal the three points.
The result also means FC Alay's search for a first away win in the AFC Cup continues.
ALTYN ASYR 1-1 FC ISTIKLOL [Annadurdyyev 49' - Aliev 31']
Turkmenistan's Altyn Asyr and Tajikistan's FC Istiklol played out a 1-1 draw on Tuesday at Balkanabat which meant the two sides continued to stay atop the table with four points a piece from two games.
Though the home team started brightly, it was the 2015 runners-up FC Istiklol who surged into the lead just past the half-hour mark when Fatkhullo Fatkhulloev played in Jahongir Aliev who found the far corner with a sumptuous strike. But the home side got their rewards four minutes after the restart when Suleyman Muhadov found Annadurdyyev who found the bottom corner from outside the area with an accurate finish, which was also his second goal of the campaign.
The result means that both teams go joint top with four points, one more than third-placed Dordoi FC.
MAZIYA S&RC 0-1 BENGALURU FC [Johnson 90+4']
Last year's runners-up Bengaluru FC left it to the very last minute before wrapping up a 1-0 win away to Maziya S&RC in Maldives that sees them maintain their perfect start to the campaign.
It was the visitors, Bengaluru FC, who had the most of the possession throughout the game but were frustrated by a bloody-minded Maziya defence who kept The Blues at bay till the very end. But they did threaten on the counter on occasions and only a last-ditch sliding tackle from Sandesh Jhingan prevented Abdulla Asadhulla from giving the home side a surprise lead. But all their good work would come to nought in the end as Bengaluru claimed all three points with virtually the last kick of the game.
Having committed men forward desperately, a long goalkick saw the Maziya goalkeeper spill it on to the path of Marjan Jugovic who lifted the ball goalwards for John Jonhson to direct it in and claim all three points for Albert Roca's side. The result sees Bengaluru sit atop the group with six points from two games, three clear of their challengers.
MOHUN BAGAN 3-1 ABAHANI LTD DHAKA [Jeje 45+1' Balwant 48' Norde 87' - Brown 21']
I-League outfit Mohun Bagan bounced back from an opening round defeat to Bengaluru FC by blowing away Bangladesh's Abahani Ltd Dhaka 3-1 at the Rabindra Sarovar stadium in Kolkata on Tuesday.
It was the away side who took a surprise lead in Kolkata when Jonathan Brown turned home Nabib Newaj Jibon’s neat cutback after just 21 minutes on the clock taking advantage of slack defending from the hosts. But Sanjoy Sen's side grew into the game and equalised on the stroke of half-time when Sony Norde knocked down a cross from Balwant Singh for Jeje Lalpekhlua to fire in from close range. That goal seemed to breathe new life into Mohun Bagan's attacks and they went ahead three minutes into the second half. Yusa Katsumi sent the excellent Balwant Singh clear in the box and the striker lifted a delightful finish over the goalkeeper.
The Mariners made sure of the result in the 87th minute when star winger Sony Norde played a brilliant one-two with Balwant Singh before firing home at the near post. The result propelled Mohun Bagan to the second spot in the table while Abahani were condemned to their second straight loss.
TAMPINES ROVERS 1-2 HANOI FC [Hanapi 68' - Van Quyet 75' Van Thanh 90+2']
Vietnamese side Hanoi FC well and truly took control of Group G with a stunning 2-1 victory over Singapore's Tampines Rovers away from home on Tuesday, thanks to an inspired late comeback.
Having been shamed by Hanoi 4-0 in the reverse fixture, Tampines Rovers had to win this fixture or risk their chances of qualifications but the first half lacked none of the enterprise that was expected from this clash from either team. But the second half was none like the first. The home team drew first blood in the 68th minute when Yasir Hanapi turned home Shakir Hamzah’s cross from the left. But Hanoi hit back within seven minutes through Nguyen Van Quyet who did splendidly well to take a low freekick in his stride before turning smartly inside the area and firing a left-footed low strike home.
Just when it seemed the spoils would be shared, Hanoi FC's super sub, Pham Van Thanh, slid in to turn Hoang Vu Samson’s ball across the box and give his side a thrilling victory and three points to boot. The win means Hanoi FC are now three clear atop the Group while Tampines Rovers are at the bottom.
FELDA UTD 3-0 CERES NEGROS [Syahid 6' Hadin 65' Hazli 76']
Malaysian outfit Felda United notched their first win of the campaign, courtesy of a 3-0 result over Ceres Negros at home which also saw them draw level with their Philippine opponents with five points each. Felda United, who played out a 0-0 draw with Ceres in the reverse fixture, started this one extremely well, surging into the lead in the sixth minute. Mohammed Syahin sent a fine strike from 20 yards into the top corner to stun the Ceres Negros.
It was a blow from which they never recovered. But Felda United had to wait till the 65th minute to double their lead when Muhammad Hadin struck a sweet half-volley after the Ceres Negros failed to clear a cross from the left. Eleven minutes later, Felda had their third goal as well. A corner was spilled by Ceres custodian Roland Muller and Fazrul Hazli gleefully poked home to seal a brilliant win for his side.
ERCHIM FC 0-3 KIGWANCHA SC [Yong-Il 40', 90+3' Galt (OG) 46']
Mongolian side Erchim FC were condemned to their second straight defeat in the three-man Group I by Kigwancha SC in a 0-3 scoreline, despite having a numerical advantage over their North Korean rivals.
Erchim were coming into the game after a 6-0 thrashing in Pyongyang at the hands of 4.25 SC but found themselves trailing in the 40th minute when Kim Yong-Il finished off a lofted throughball with a cool finish. But their joy turned to despair two minutes later when defender Ri Thong-il was sent off for a handball, which was his second bookable offence. But Erchim were unable to press home their advantage and fell further behind just after the break in unfortunate circumstances. Erchim defender Tuguldur Galt’s attempted header back to goalkeeper Ariunbold Batsaikhan from a long ball over the top ended up inside the net with the goalkeeper caught out off his line.
The dispirited Erchim shipped one more goal in injury time when Yong-Il helped himself to a brace by heading in a sumptuous cross from the left wing. The result takes Kigwancha joint top with 4.25 SC as Erchim lick their wounds.