Group B: Al Najma 0-1 Kuwait SC
Manama: Substitute Shaheen Al Khamees scored what could prove a crucial late winner with almost the last kick of the game as Kuwait SC claimed a deserved 1-0 victory over Bahrain's Al Najma in Group B of the 2019 AFC Cup on Tuesday.
Three-time AFC Cup champions Kuwait SC had the better of both halves at the Bahrain National Stadium but missed a host of chances as the game appeared to be heading for a stalemate until Al Khamees stunned the hosts with a fabulous curling effort from 20 yards at the death.
The win moved Kuwait SC level on four points with Al Najma at the midway point of the group stage, with both sides three points behind table-toppers Al Jazeera of Jordan, who defeated Syria's Al Ittihad 4-0 earlier on Tuesday.
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Kuwait SC came into the match having picked up just one point from two games in the 2019 competition, while Al Najma were unbeaten in their first two games of the campaign and sat three points ahead of their opponents.
The Kuwaiti side thought they were off to a perfect start as Sami Al Sanea delivered a whipped cross that found Fahad Al Hajeri in plenty of space behind the Bahraini defence. However, the defender’s header from the edge of the six-yard box was miscued and sailed high over.
The visitors continued to dominate possession and came close once again in the eighth minute as Yaqoob Hussain found space inside the box to receive Hamid Mido’s squared pass and try to side-foot it into the back of the net, but he was denied by goalkeeper Ahmed Rasool.
Al Najma looked a shadow of the team that collected four points from their first two games, sitting deep and being restricted to shy attempts throughout the first half.
Hassan Al Shaikh tried his luck from distance but his shot went wide, and Ali Madan snatched at a loose ball inside the box at the end of the first half but his attempt was smothered by the goalkeeper in what were Al Najma’s only two sights of goal in the opening 45 minutes.
The hosts were better at the beginning of the second half and, after good interchange play between Ahmed Abdulla and Mouhamadou Drame, the ball eventually found its way to Madan, whose low effort was well tipped wide by Hameed Youseff.
Kuwait SC then had a chance down the other end but Al Hajeri headed Al Khamees' pacey cross from the right over the bar from just a few yards out.
The visitors then took control of proceedings once more and could have taken the lead with 12 minutes to play, only for Al Khamees to volley over after Al Najma had failed to clear Faisal Al Harbi's cross from the left.
Minutes later substitute Talal Al Fadhel's shot from distance was parried out by Rasool, before Al Hajeri headed Al Khamees' ensuing cross wide of the right post.
But then in the dying seconds Al Khamees proved to be the hero when, after good recovery play from Al Harbi, he gathered the ball on the edge of the area and curled a superb strike beyond Rasool.
The teams will meet again on April 15 in Kuwait City, where both will be desperate for three points as they chase the one automatic qualification spot from the group.
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