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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Al Nahda enter AFC Cup West Zone final with victory over Al Riffa

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Muscat, Feb 20


Al Nahda Club advanced to the final of the West Zonal AFC Cup after defeating Bahrain’s Al Riffa 3-1 in the second leg of the semi-final at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex. The game started quickly with Al Nahda Club attempting to control the midfield and launch attacks to get a head start. However, Al Riffa’s solid defensive organisation made it challenging, relying on defence and counter-attacks. Both teams tried several attacks, but none posed a real threat to the goalkeepers. After Al Nahda’s initial pressure in the first half-hour, the momentum shifted to Al Riffa, who pressed Al Nahda’s defences.


In the 32nd minute, Al Riffa scored the first goal of the match, taking advantage of a defensive error in clearing the ball. Jassim Al Shaikh received the ball between defenders and made a beautiful pass to his teammate Ali Hasan, who struck a powerful shot into the net, giving Al Riffa the lead. Despite Al Nahda’s attempts to equalise, including a notable shot by the professional player Interis, saved by goalkeeper Mahmoud al Ajmi in the 42nd minute, the first half ended with al Riffa leading 1-0.


In the second half, Al Nahda’s coach, Hamad al Azzani, tried to make a comeback by activating the attacking third of his team, substituting Omar al Malki for Ali al Hanai. In the 59th minute, Al Nahda’s high pressure resulted in the equalising goal by Walter Bwalya.


As the minutes passed, both teams attempted to take the lead and apply offensive pressure for the second goal to secure a place in the final. However, caution was evident from both teams in maintaining tactical defensive discipline and playing on quick counter-attacks. The second half ended with a 1-1 draw, taking the match to extra time.


In the first half of extra time, Al Nahda Club scored the second goal through substitute Hamoud al Saadi with a header in the 94th minute, taking advantage of a pass from Esam al Subhi. Despite Al Riffa’s attempts to level the score, Al Nahda’s defences thwarted all efforts, and the first half of extra time ended with Al Nahda leading 2-1.


At the beginning of the second half of extra time, Al Nahda seized an opportunity on the counter-attack and scored the third goal through striker Esam al Subhi, who dribbled past the goalkeeper after a through pass from Omar al Malki. After the third goal, Bahrain’s Al Riffa struggled to break through Al Nahda’s defences and the match ended with a total score of 4-2, following the draw in the first encounter.


With this victory, Al Nahda qualifies for the AFC Cup West Zone final, where they will face the winner of the match between Iraq’s Al Kahrabaa Club or Al Ahed FC of Lebanon in the two-leg West Zonal final in April.


Esam al Subhi celebrates after winning the match


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