Dakik: Al Ahed braced for tough AFC Cup title defence
Beirut: It was six months to remember for Al Ahed defender Hussein Dakik after helping the seven-time Lebanon league champions win their maiden AFC Cup title last November.
Dakik featured in nine of Al Ahed’s matches in their run to the final of the 2019 AFC Cup, where they defeated DPR Korea’s 4.25 SC 1-0 to lift their first ever continental title.
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Speaking exclusively to the-AFC.com, Dakik said Al Ahed had to fight hard to lift the coveted trophy at the Kuala Lumpur Stadium in the Malaysian capital on the night of November 4, 2019.
“It was a difficult tournament from the opening match until the final,” said the 31-year-old left-back.
“The best memory that I have is when Issah Yakubu scored the winning goal in the final,” said Dakik of the goal the Ghanaian forward netted in the 74th minute against 4.25 SC.
Dakik, who started his football career at Shabab Al Sahel before moving to Al Ahed in 2009, revealed the main elements that helped Al Ahed win the title after failing at the knockout stage the previous two years.
“We had great fighting spirit,” explained Dakik. “All the players had great motivation from the first match against Qadsia SC until the final."
“All the players were motivated to become the first Lebanese club to win the AFC Cup title,” he added. “There was great understanding between the defenders, midfielders and our goalkeeper.
“We didn’t concede a lot of goals because of this while we also had a great goalkeeper who helped us win the title,” said Dakik of Mahdi Khalil who moved to Islamic Republic of Iran’s Zobahan after his heroics in the 2019 AFC Cup which saw him concede only three goals in 11 matches.
Dakik said the West Asia Zonal final against Al Jazeera of Jordan was one of Al Ahed’s most difficult matches.
“It was a difficult match and it became harder after Ahmed Akaïchi scored the only goal of the night,” he explained. “That put a lot of pressure on the players and we had to have maximum concentration in order to reach the final.”
The weight of the title
Having reached the top, Dakik admitted that playing as title holders in this year’s edition is not an easy task.
Al Ahed had to come from behind in their opening match against Palestine’s Hilal Alquds Club to win 2-1 before suffering a 1-0 defeat to Manama Club in Bahrain.
“Of course it is not easy to play as the AFC Cup champions,” explained Dakik. “All eyes are on us because we are the defending champions and the teams that we face produce their best."
“We are also a different team as many of our players were loaned out,” he added. “We are playing with a younger squad as head coach Bassem Marmar has given the chance to several young players.
“I hope that when football returns after the COVID-19 pandemic, we will have a better squad - especially with the return of our players who were loaned out.”
Photos: AFP, AFC
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