Group B: Al Najma 1-1 Al Jazeera
Manama: Bahrain's Al Najma came back from a goal down to salvage a 1-1 draw against Al Jazeera of Jordan in their opening 2019 AFC Cup Group B tie at the Bahrain National Stadium on Monday.
Last year’s West Asia Zonal semi-finalists quickly moved into second gear as Yazan Al Arab got on the end of an Ahmed Al Essawi corner kick, but the defender fluffed his lines from close range 17 minutes in.
It was Al Jazeera’s second attempt of the night that produced the first goal. Islam Batran collected the ball deep into Al Najma’s half and laid it off for Mahmoud Al Mardi.
The Jordanian playmaker still had a lot to do, cutting inside into his right foot and unleashing a thunderous curler into the far corner of Ahmed Rasool’s net to break the deadlock 18 minutes in.
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Goalkeeper Ahmed Abdel Sattar misjudged the flight of Salem Hassan’s cross from the right wing gifting the ball on a silver plate to Al Najma’s Ibrahim Habib who nodded home the equaliser in the 31st minute.
Al Jazeera suffered a blow just before the half-time break as Jordanian international defender Yazan Al Arab was stretched off, with Jabeer Khattab replacing him.
Al Najma looked to complete their comeback in front of their home crowd, and four minutes after the restart they came close.
Abdulla Saif found himself in space inside the opposition’s box and attempted to hit the ball on the turn, but instead sent it high.
Rasool’s first serious test since the goal came in the 52nd minute as Al Essawi rifled in from 30 yards out, but the Bahraini goalkeeper made a fine flying save to keep the scores level.
Coach Nizar Mahrous, who had led another Jordanian side, Shabab Al Ordon to the AFC Cup title over a decade ago, set his Al Jazeera side to press from deep, but chances were few and far between for his team in the second half.
The two sides had to settle for a draw as did their group rivals Kuwait SC and Al Ittihad in the earlier kick-off.
Al Jazeera hosts three-time champions Kuwait SC on Matchday Two, while Al Najma travel to Abu Dhabi to face Syria’s Al Ittihad.