Muscat, Jan 30 – Al Suwaiq joined Dhofar in the group stage of the 2018 AFC Cup as they drew 1-1 with Palestine club Hilal Al Quds in the second leg of the West Zone play-off at the Seeb Stadium on Monday. Al Suwaiq edged Hilal Al Quds 1-0 in the first leg to secure a 2-1 aggregate. With their qualification for a sixth time, Al Suwaiq became the team to enter the competition for the most number of times from Oman. Al Suwaiq will play in Group A which includes: Malkiya (Bahrain), Al Jazeera (Jordan) and Al Quwa Al Jawiya (Iraq). Dhofar will play in Group C along with Al Wahda (Syria), Al Ansar (Lebanon) and Al Faisaly or Al Wehdat (Jordan).
Back to the thriller at the Seeb Stadium, Hilal Al Quds showed unexpected firepower in the first half and took the lead in the 19th minute through forward Mohammed Yammi, who headed in a brilliant cross from left back Ibrahim Badran. The visitors continued their attacking to score another goal, capitalising on the lack of focus Al Suwaiq showed in the first half. Romanian coach Ilie Balaci, who took charge of Al Suwaiq this game after he missed the first leg due to health circumstances, changed his system and style of play in the half time. Balaci made two changes by replacing left winger Fahad al Jalbobi and right winger Al Abd al Nufli with midfielder Nyang and striker Khalid al Hajri early in the second half.
The changes immediately showed the impact as Abdulaziz al Muqbali equalised in the 69th minute after he received a classy pass from Mahmoud Mabrouk. The hosts then wasted a room of chances especially after Hilal Al Quds’ Tamer Syam was sent off in the 72nd minute. Al Suwaiq’s final push for a winner also went short of the target.
Jaber Al Ajmi