Amman: Saeed Al Murjan's 11th minute strike secured Al Wehdat of Jordan a 1-0 win over Lebanon's Nejmeh SC in their opening 2019 AFC Cup Group A match on Monday.
The Jordanian side returned to the competition after missing out on the 2018 edition, their only absence in the past five years. Nejmeh, finalists in 2005, had exited at the group stage in each of their previous two appearances in 2015 and 2017.
A well-worked attacking move from a set-piece sent the home crowed into raptures as Al Wehdat took the lead just 11 minutes into the game.
Al Murjan was left with a simple tap in from point-blank range after Rajaei Ayed’s intelligently dinked pass found Hamza Al Dardour in plenty of space. The forward selflessly squared for Al Murjan who netted Al Wehdat’s opener.
See also :
Group A: Al Jaish 1-1 Hilal Alquds Club
Group B: Al Najma 1-1 Al Jazeera
Group B: Kuwait SC 0-0 Al Ittihad
The Jordanians piled the pressure in pursuit of a second goal and were denied in the 20th minute when goalkeeper Abbas Hassan was well-positioned to rescue Baha Faisal’s header following a series of quick passes.
Al Murjan nearly doubled his tally after breaking free into the box, but his shot from close range was too central and Hassan calmly collected it.
Having weathered the storm post Al Wehdat’s goal, Nejmeh slowly grew into the match. It took half an hour for their first chance to arrive. Hassan Maatouk curled from outside the box and goalkeeper Tamer Saleh confidently passed his first test of the night.
As the first half headed to close, Al Dardour was involved in a tussle for the ball with Nejmeh’s Beninese defender Chams Deen Chaona. The referee was forced to send both players off following the incident as the two sides went into the break a man down.
Nejmeh got off to a flying start after the break as substitute Abu Bakr Al Mel came agonisingly close with his first touch of the ball. The forward met Maatouk’s cross from the left with a towering header but Saleh was again present to save the day for Al Wehdat.
Kais Yakoubi’s men dominated possession, keeping the ball in the centre of the pitch as they starved their visitors of the ball.
The result was that Nejmeh’s only chance of the final 40 minutes was a hopeful 30-yard effort from Nader Matar that missed the target.
Faisal thought he had added a second for the home side in added time as he swept home on the rebound, but the flag had gone up for offside and keeping Al Wehdat’s lead at the final whistle to one goal.
Up next for the Group A leaders is a trip to neighbouring Palestine where they face Hilal Alquds. Nejmeh, meanwhile, will try to make amends at home against Syria’s Al Jaish on Matchday Two.