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We will only get better, says Al Ittihad's Sierra

Dubai: Al Ittihad coach Jose Luis Sierra expressed his satisfaction with his team’s performance in the 2-1 victory over Zobahan FC in the first leg of the 2019 AFC Champions League Round of 16 on Monday.

After going behind to a Ghasem Haddadifar strike inside the opening 10 minutes, the two-time AFC Champions League winners came from behind to snatch a ‘home’ victory in the game held at Dubai’s Zabeel Stadium.

Goals from new signing Luis Antonio Jimenez and defender Ziyad Al Sahafi helped Sierra’s men end Zobahan’s six-game unbeaten run in the AFC Champions League.

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“The weather is still hot and humid, so the weather had a detrimental impact on our players,” explained the Chilean tactician who re-joined Al Ittihad in February, having earlier helped them win two domestic trophies in a two-year stint between 2016 and 2018.

“It is our first competitive match of the season as well. So, overall, I’m satisfied with our performance and I can only expect the team to get better with every passing game.”

Round of 16 1st Leg: Al Ittihad vs Zobahan FC

The winning margin could have been larger for Al Ittihad, but a combination of solid defending from Zobahan and a lack of clinical finishing from Romarinho on the night meant they would have to go into the second leg in Doha holding to a one-goal advantage.

The Brazilian is his side’s top scorer in the competition, having registered three strikes in the group stage, but on Monday, his finishing was below par. Early on, he headed wide from close range, before shooting straight at the keeper in the 29th minute, and again just on the wrong side of the upright an hour into the match.

“I thought Romarinho did very well. Tactically, he was important for us. His movements created spaces in the opposition’s backline, but he was unfortunate not to score. It just wasn’t his day in front of goal.

“We had a decent crowd of travelling fans behind us today and their support made the difference. We are thankful for them and that’s always what I have come to expect from Al Ittihad fans."

The winners of the last 16 tie - the return leg will be played on August 12 - will face either Al Ahli Saudi FC or Al Hilal SFC in the quarter-finals.

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