Group A: Al Jaish 1-1 Hilal Alquds Club
Muharraq: Hilal Alquds collected their first-ever AFC Cup point, earning a 1-1 draw against Syria’s Al Jaish in the latter’s adopted home in Bahrain in the opening match of Group A on Monday.
After failing to navigate the competition’s play-off stage on two previous occasions, the Palestinian side qualified for this year’s group stage after overcoming Oman’s Al Nasr.
At Al Muharraq Stadium, youngster Odai Dabbagh was full of energy throughout. It took the Palestinian international five minutes to threaten. He calmly controlled Jonathan Zorrilla’s corner inside the box, dribbled past two defenders before seeing his shot deflected behind for another corner-kick.
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Bassel Moustafa responded six minutes later but his tame left-footed effort from outside the box was easily collected by goalkeeper Rami Hamada.
Coach Khader Obeid’s attacking intent was clear as Zorrilla and Dabbagh looked to combine time and again.
The Syrian side’s chances remained limited to shots from distance as Mohammed Al Wakid and Ahmed Bawadjki’s attempts failed to disturb Hamada.
The first goal of the night arrived in the 18th minute, and it was Hilal Alquds, playing their first-ever AFC Cup group stage match, who hit the net first.
Zorrilla was again the creative force, delivering an out-swinging cross from the corner. The ball fell nicely for Mohammed Obaid to drill home the opener.
Moustafa failed to emulate his opposite number when faced with a similar situation, instead rocketing his shot from close range into the sky.
The Palestinian side took a valuable lead into the break, but soon after their return onto the pitch, the result was set for a change.
Al Jaish came racing out of the blocks and within four minutes had found an equaliser. Moustafa supplied Ahmed Ashkar just outside the box and the number 14 struck with fury into the top corner to bring the home side level.
Al Wakid combined with Ashkar 10 minutes later, but the former sent his left-footed effort wide. Moustafa followed a minute later with another lackluster shot.
It was more of the same for the remainder of the second half as Al Jaish dominated possession but failed to take their chances. Hilal Alquds were resilient in defence and stood their ground to earn a valuable first point.
Hilal Alquds welcome Jordan’s Al Wehdat to Al Ram on Matchday Two, while Al Jaish’s next encounter takes them to Beirut where they face Nejmeh SC on March 11.