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ACL2020: Al Ahli's Marin finds joy beyond Man of the Match award

Doha: Match winner Marko Marin found multiple reasons for celebration after his Al Ahli Saudi FC side left it late to defeat Al Shorta FC 1-0 and advance to the 2020 AFC Champions League round of 16.

With the score tied at 0-0 and with four minutes left on the clock, Marin took matters into his own hands, forcing his way through the heart of the opposition defence and getting on the end of Abdulrahman Ghareeb’s return pass to slot home, settling the tie and earning the Player of the Match award.

The result meant Al Ahli have six points and with three games left to play, a top-two finish secured for the Saudis following the AFC’s COVID-19 sub committee’s decision to consider Al Wahda FSCC withdrawn and annul their results.

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“Of course, I am very happy to be named Player of the Match, I have many other reasons to be happy,” said the former Chelsea and Sevilla winger.

“I am happy to play an official game after a long time on the sidelines. I am happy that I am fit again and fully recovered after weeks of absence from training. It was a difficult injury and I am happy to start the competition with a win against a strong team like Al Shorta. It was a great performance and we are happy to get the win.

Group A - MD3: Al Ahli Saudi FC 1-0 Al Shorta

Marin’s joy was to the disappointment of Al Shorta who were left to rue their missed chances at the final whistle, having battled hard and threatened Mohammed Al Owais’ goal on several occasions, only to succumb to Al Ahli’s late winner.

“We played a good tactical game against a strong team with quality players,” said Al Shorta head coach Abdulghani Shahd.

“If you look at stats, you will see Al Ahli did not have many shots on target other than the goal, which is evidence of our tactical discipline. We will have a different approach in the next game."

Al Shorta had their work cut out for them late into the first half when full-back Ali Mahawi, already on a booking, handled the ball, earning a second yellow card and leaving his teammates to see out the match with a numerical disadvantage.

“I would like to thank my players for their efforts despite this being the first game after a long stoppage, they worked really hard from start to finish, especially with a man down. You could see they were exhausted by the end of the game."

The two sides are set for a rematch on Thursday in Matchday Four where another defeat for Al Shorta would leave them in need of all three points on the final matchday if they are to progress. Al Ahli will need a win to seal the top spot in the group.

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