AFC: Al-Shabab and Zob Ahan sneak one goal leads; AFC Cup Review
Asian club competition has reached a crucial point of the season with both of the Asian Football Confederation’s flagship tournaments in the semi-final stages. There have been goals galore in the AFC Champions League whilst the AFC Cup has seen two more tense affairs amongst the final four. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the action.
South Korean side Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma, their country’s lone representatives in this tournament following the exit of three fellow K-League sides in the quarter-finals, were involved in an extraordinary game away at Saudi Arabia’s Al-Shabab. The visitors led the game three times only to lose by four goals to three having seen a 3-2 lead slip in the final eight minutes of the game. Goals from Mauricio Molina (2) and Jo Jae-Cheol for Seongnam were counterbalanced by strikes from Juan Manuel Oliveira (2) and Nasser Al-Shamrani before Fisal Al Sultan popped up to score the winning goal for Al-Shabab who must defend their slender lead in South Korea in a fortnight’s time.
On Wednesday there weren’t as many goals in the game between Iranians Zob Ahan and Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal but the action was just as captivating. The deadlock wasn’t broken until the 56th minute when Zob Ahan’s Ghasem Hadadafar’s low drive from a free-kick beat the keeper low at his near post and that was how the match stayed. With the match on home turf in two weeks time Al-Hilal will hope to overturn the deficit in front of a hostile crowd and potentially set themselves up for a third triumph in this competition which they also won in 1992 and 2000 as opposed to Zob Ahan who have aspirations of reaching their first ever final.
The AFC Cup has seen clubs from the western half of the continent dominate proceedings in the last few years although Thailand representatives Muangthong United are doing their best to buck the trend. They defeated Syrian side Ittihad by a solitary goal to nil on Tuesday with Siaka Dagno’s early eighth minute strike proving the difference between the two sides in a tense first leg which saw Ittihad’s Omar Hemidi shown the red card with just five minutes remaining. In the other tie Bahrain’s Al-Riffa have a more comfortable lead to defend in the second leg after winning their first leg match 2-0 at home to Al-Qadsia. Rico got the ball rolling in the 29th minute whilst Mubarak Abdulrahman sealed the deal with just ten minutes remaining. Both second leg ties take place in a fortnight’s time and it sets up an exciting conclusion to this stage of the competition.