West Zonal SF 1st Leg: Al Wehdat 0-1 Al Ahed FC
Amman: Mohammed Kdouh’s fifth goal of the competition was the difference as Al Ahed stunned Al Wehdat 1-0 in the first leg of the 2019 AFC Cup West Zonal Semi-final on Monday.
Both sides looked to improve on their most recent AFC Cup campaigns. Al Ahed had been eliminated at the same stage last year whereas Al Wehdat suffered the same fate in 2017 and missed out on the 2018 AFC Cup.
Al Wehdat came racing out of the blocks, and within three minutes, they had their first sight of goal.
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Faisal’s initial effort from the free-kick was blocked by the wall but fell into the path of Saleh Rateb who struck first-time from outside the box. Al Ahed goalkeeper Mehdi Khalil produced a flying save to tip the ball behind.
Rajaei Ayed attempted to catch Khalil off guard, hitting a free-kick from 40 yards out straight towards goal, but the Lebanese custodian was alert and made the save.
Al Ahed spent extended periods of the first half deep in their own half, posing no threat to their opponents, but they were largely successful in keeping Al Wehdat at bay.
The pattern continued after the restart, with the home side piling the pressure. Ayed tried his luck from distance in the 49th minute, but his effort went inches over the crossbar.
The capacity crowd at King Abdullah II thought their team had finally broken the deadlock 10 minutes into the second half when Faisal climbed unchallenged to meet the cross of Omar Qandeel from the right wing.
Faisal directed his header towards the bottom corner and was successful in beating the goalkeeper, but the Al Wehdat faithful were left in agony as the ball bounced off the foot of the upright.
With the clock ticking down, frustration started to build for the home side as Khalil continued to stand tall in the face of an avalanche of Jordanian attacks. Ayed curled one from the left side, but the goalkeeper was well positioned and made the save.
Against the run of play, it was Al Ahed who finally found the opener in the 79th minute from a rare chance.
The visitors took advantage of a misplaced Ayed pass near the centre circle and embarked on a quick counter-attack. Kdouh and Mohamad Haidar exchanged passes before the latter crossed for Kdouh to head home what proved to be the winner.
Despite eight minutes of added time, Al Wehdat were unable to get an equaliser as the Lebanese team took home a valuable lead ahead of next week’s second leg in Beirut.
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