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Sharayea: Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia booked their place in the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League for the second season in a row as first-half goals by Bruno Cesar and Mustafa Al Bassas helped them to a 2-0 win over Qatari newcomers El Jaish on Wednesday.

Cesar fired last year’s runners-up into the lead after 24 minutes at the King Abdulaziz Sport Centre and Al Bassas added a second with a fine individual effort eight minutes before half-time to give the Saudi side a 3-1 aggregate victory.

El Jaish offered little in response and they could have suffered an ever heavier defeat if Cesar had not seen his second-half penalty stopped by goalkeeper Ahmed Sofyan.

“We expected big pressure from El Jaish at the start of the game and I asked the players to fight in order to avoid conceding any goals,” said Al Ahli coach Aleksander Ilic. 

“We played with our own style and forced our opponents to play according to what we planned and scored a goal which changed the game into our favour. 

“We played with good tactics and I am happy that we had a good performance which helped us to advance to the quarter-finals. However, we expect tough matches in the next stage and, hopefully, we can continue our good run in the competition.”

Having drawn 1-1 in the first leg in Doha, the onus was on El Jaish to score in order to avoid going out on away goals. They took the game to their opponents in the opening minutes but they were unable to craft any clear cut chances before they fell behind midway through the first half following a devastating counter-attack by the home side.

Sultan Al Sawadi made a strong burst down the right flank before he squared the ball towards Cesar on the left edge of the box. Defender Saad Al Shammari slipped as he attempted to cut off the cross and that gave the Brazilian the extra bit of space he needed to line up a left-footed drive that gave Sofyan no chance.

Buoyed by the goal, Al Ahli press forward in search of a second and it duly arrived in the 37th minute. Al Bassas gathered the ball on the right side of midfield and he accelerated towards the right edge of the El Jaish box before he rifled a fierce angled shot that flew across Sofyan and into the far corner of the net.

The goal appeared to take the fight out of the demoralised Qatari side and they could have fallen even further behind just four minutes after the interval when Al Ahli were awarded a penalty after Al Bassas had been upended in the box by Sofyan.

The El Jaish goalkeeper escaped with only a yellow card and he then used his trailing leg to stop Cesar from the penalty spot as Brazilian tried to drill his spot kick down the middle.

The hosts would also hit the woodwork shortly afterwards while the best that El Jaish could muster in response was a 57th minute header by Abdulqadir Adam that flew just wide.

The game was up for the visitors and Cesar should have capped the night with another goal as he missed a sitter in the final moments after he had been found unmarked in the six-yard box by a cutback from the right.

“We started the game very well but we made some mistakes which gave a well experienced side like Al Ahli the opportunity to score and so they finished the game with a good win thanks to the experience of their players,” lamented El Jaish coach Razvan Lucescu.

“We conceded an early goal and this goal changed our view for the match and it affected our plan. Overall, we are disappointed with the defeat but at the same time we are proud for what we achieved this year as we gained a lot of experience."



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