Analysis: Ruthless Al Ain brush aside Al Rayyan to qualify
Doha: Al Ain romped to a 4-1 victory against Al Rayyan in the final matchday of Group D to join Esteghlal in qualifying to the 2018 AFC Champions League Round of 16.
Al Rayyan and Al Ain locked horns in Doha with a place in the knock-out stages up for grabs, and it was the visitors who emerged on top with a comprehensive 4-1 win, thanks to smart wing play and lethal finishing.
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A brace against Al Rayyan took Marcus Berg to six goals in the 2018 AFC Champions League, just one goal behind the competition’s top goalscorer Baghdad Bounedjah. The Swede has been an inspired signing for Al Ain since joining in July, also netting 18 league goals as Zoran Mamic’s men clinched the domestic league title.
What was more impressive about Berg’s goals on Monday is the fact he scored from his only two shots of the night. Captaining the side in Doha, the number 9 showed the sort of ruthlessness in front of goal which will be crucial if Al Ain are to go far in the AFC Champions League.
The 31-year-old’s two strikes cam in nearly identical fashion, as he made the run behind Al Rayyan defence and met crosses from the left flank; first from Caio then from Tsukasa Shiotani, on both occasions wrongfooting the goalkeeper with deft finished.
Asymmetric Al Ain
Mamic’s side have often lined-up in a 3-6-1 formation this season, but in a crucial away continental encounter, the Croatian opted for a more conservative 4-5-1, recalling Bandar Al Hababi into the starting XI to fill in at right back.
The midfield five theoretically started as two central midfielders, two wingers and Omar Abdulrahman in the hole as a number 10, but in practice the roles played by Hussein El Shahat on the right and Caio on the left were not similar.
Caio looked to stay wide, stretching play and impacting the game from the flank, which he did with remarkable success, setting up two goals, the first of which demonstrated El Shahat’s role as he tucked inside and found space inside Al Rayyan’s box from the right to tap in the rebound from Caio’s attempt.
On a night where nothing seemed to work for the Qatari’s, left-back Mohammed Jumaa was a rare ray of light as he marauded up and down the flank, taking advantage of the space left behind El Shahat.
Indeed, the full back was behind the solitary goal for Al Rayyan as he exchanged passes with Mouhsine Moutouali before showing impressive athleticism to outpace Al Ahbabi and deliver a pinpoint cross from the left for Sebastian Soria to sweep home.
Jumaa’s impact was not limited to Soria’s goal, which proved too little too late. The 31-year-old spent a chunk of the 90 minutes in the opposite half, delivering four crosses and completing 74% of his passes.
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