Kuala Lumpur: As the 2019 AFC Cup moves towards its latter stages, many of the remaining sides battling it out for Continental glory may look to bring in new personnel who they hope can be the difference between success and failure.
Over the years a number of teams have reaped the rewards for luring fresh faces ahead of the business end of the competition – the-AFC.com has picked out five of the biggest-impact summer signings.
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1. Haidar Abdulameer (Al Faisaly, 2006)
After arriving from Iraq’s Al Zawraa in July 2006, Haidar Abdulameer’s task was to help the defending AFC Cup champions Al Faisaly retain their title, but a 1-1 draw at home to Hong Kong’s Sun Hei in the first leg of the quarter-finals was not the ideal start.
The Jordanian side made the long trip east ahead of the return fixture at Hong Kong Stadium, where another 1-1 ensured the game went to penalties. Midfielder Abdulameer netted from the spot as the holders prevailed to progress to a meeting with domestic rivals Al Wehdat.
A narrow 2-1 aggregate win then saw Al Faisaly advance to the final against Bahrain’s Al Muharraq and a 3-0 first-leg victory at home appeared to have them well on the way to retaining their title, but they fell 1-0 behind in Riffa to bring the hosts back into the contest.
Abdulameer equalised 10 minutes before the interval with a strike that would prove crucial given that three goals in 10 second-half minutes put Al Muharraq 4-1 up. With the game on a knife edge, Siraj Al Tall made it 4-2 in added time as Al Faisaly were crowned champions once more.
2. Danijel Subotic (Qadsia SC, 2014)
Replacing the prolific Omar Al Soma was a tough ask for Danijel Subotic when the Zagreb-born Swiss player arrived at Al Qadsia in mid-2014. The Syrian striker had netted seven times in the run-up to the quarter-finals before departing for Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli.
But Subotic was up to the task and scored on his AFC Cup debut when his penalty in the second leg of the quarter-final against Al Hidd reduced a two-goal deficit. Al Qadsia then equalised late on as the tie ended 3-3 on aggregate and the Kuwaiti team advanced on away goals.
The then 25-year-old then added a further two to his tally in a 4-2 home victory over Indonesia’s Persipura Jayapura in the first leg of the semi-finals as Al Qadsia eventually progressed to a final against Iraq’s Arbil following a 10-2 aggregate win.
Having finished runners-up in 2010 and 2013, history was against Al Qadsia, though, and when a scoreless draw ensured the final went to penalties, the pressure was on the Kuwaitis. But with the shootout at 3-2, Subotic dispatched his spot-kick to wrap up the title tto complete a memorable few months.
3. Albert Roca (JSW Bengaluru, 2016)
Founded in 2013, JSW Bengaluru were just establishing themselves in Continental football when Albert Roca stepped into the hot seat in July 2016. For the second successive year they had advanced to the AFC Cup last 16, but the Spanish coach would take them to the next level.
CK Vineeth secured a 1-0 aggregate win over Singapore’s Tampines Rovers in the last eight to line up a clash with holders Johor Darul Ta’zim in a game that would truly put the Karnataka State side on the map.
A 1-1 draw in southern Malaysia meant all was to play for in the second leg at Sree Kanteevara Stadium and, after falling behind, a Sunil Chettri brace and a goal from one of Roca’s first signings – fellow Spaniard Juanan – completed a stunning 3-1 win.
Bengaluru fell just short in the final, losing 1-0 to Iraq’s Air Force Club, before reaching the Inter-Zone final a year later. Although Roca never won the AFC Cup, he guided the side to Indian Super League and Federation Cup glory, and left as a club legend in mid-2018.
4. Amjad Radhi (Air Force Club, 2016)
When Amjad Radhi joined Iraqi giants Air Force Club following a short spell in Egypt in 2016, few could have predicted what would come next as the club went on to write their name into the AFC Cup history books.
The forward came off the bench in the 1-1 draw in the first leg of the quarter-finals against Syria’s Al Jaish, before scoring the second in a 4-0 victory in the return meeting. Air Force Club then edged past Lebanon’s Al Ahed in the last four to progress to a final against Bengaluru.
With 70 minutes gone, Radhi produced a moment of magic, jinking through the Bengaluru defence before teeing up Hammadi Ahmad to tap home as Air Force Club became the first club side from Iraq to be crowned Asian champions.
The Baghdad team would go on to win the next two AFC Cups to claim an unprecedented hat-trick of titles, with Radhi’s three winners’ medals well and truly making up for his runners-up finish with Arbil in 2012.
5. Vayht Orazsahedov (Altyn Asyr, 2018)
After two successive group stage eliminations, Turkmenistan’s Altyn Asyr made it third time lucky by finishing above regional powerhouse FC Istiklol in 2018, before acquiring Vahyt Orazsahedov ahead of the knockout rounds.
Having finished as runners-up in 2016 and reaching the Inter-Zone final a year later, Bengaluru were hot favourites against the Turkmens in the Inter-Zone semi-finals. Orazsahedov hadn’t read the script, though, stunning Sree Kanteerava Stadium with two goals in a 3-2 first-leg victory.
Orazsahedov then made it three in two games as Altyn Asyr saw off the Indians 2-0 in Ashgabat, before adding yet another to his tally in a 2-2 draw in the first leg of the Inter-Zone final away at DPR Korea’s 4.25 SC.
Back in Ashgabat and with Altyn Asyr a goal down and heading out, the striker equalised from the spot as the Turkmen side edged through on away goals. Air Force Club would end the dream, though, winning 2-0 for their third successive title before Orazsahedov moved on to Kyrgyz side Dordoi FC.
Photo: JSW Bengaluru
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