Al Nahda go down fighting to Al Ahed in first leg of AFC Cup West Zonal Final

Sports Wednesday 17/April/2024 09:21 AM
By: Times News Service
Al Nahda go down fighting to Al Ahed in first leg of AFC Cup West Zonal Final

KARBALA: Oman's Al Nahda went down fighting 1-0 to Lebanon’s Al Ahed to hand the former champions advantage in the AFC Cup 2023/24 West Zonal Final in the first leg of the tie at Karbala International Stadium in Karbala, Iraq, on Tuesday.

Al Nahda, coached by Hamad Al Azani, will now hope to use home advantage to overturn the deficit and claim victory when they host the 2019 champions Al Ahed in a week’s time with the aggregate winners facing one of the Inter-Zone finalists, Central Coast Mariners and Abdysh-Ata Kant in the AFC Cup final.

Al Nahda wasted no time in showing their attacking intent with Congolese forward Walter Bwalya finding space behind the Al Ahed defence inside the first 60 seconds of the match, controlling a long pass and shooting from a tight angle, but goalkeeper Mostafa Matar produced a confident save.

The Lebanese side then took the initiative, threatening on multiple occasions within the first half hour. Hussein Al Zein saw his cross-cum-shot collected by goalkeeper Ibrahim Al Mukhaini, while Mohammed Haidar fed Mohammad Al Marmour with a through pass, only for the latter to scuff his shot with only the goalkeeper to beat.

Karim Darwich was left holding his head in disbelief after he was set-up by a fine Al Marmour cross which he met with an unchallenged header that he sent straight into the arms of the keeper when it was easier to score.

The forward thought he had opened the scoring in the final minutes of the first half when he latched onto a fine defence-splitting pass and slotted home past the goalkeeper, only for the linesman to raise his flag, ruling Darwich offside.

With very much the first attack after the restart, Al Ahed took the lead thanks to Mohammed Al Hallak who was perfectly positioned to receive Walid Shour’s exquisite pass inside the box and turned it into the back of the net for the opener.

Al Nahda looked to hit back and once more their most dangerous player was Bwalya who had a golden opportunity to equalise when he beat his marker to reach Billel Bensaha’s cross from the right and aimed his header towards the top corner, only to be denied by the Al Ahed keeper.

Defender Abdulaziz Khalfan tried his luck from distance on a couple of occasions, but his efforts lacked accuracy as frustration grew for the Omani team.

A string of half chances followed but a combination of good defensive organisation from Al Ahed and lack of concentration from Al Nahda meant Al Hallak’s goal remained the difference at the end of the first leg.