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Stunning comeback takes Al Jazeera into West Zonal final

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Amman: Al Jazeera recorded a historic comeback to reverse a 3-0 first-leg defeat against Al Jaish and earn a 4-0 victory in the second leg of the 2019 AFC Cup West Zonal semi-final on Tuesday, with the Jordanians advancing to the final with a 4-3 aggregate score.

Coming into the home second leg with a three-goal disadvantage, Al Jazeera were determined to show their fighting spirit from the get-go. And indeed, they started with a bang.

Within five minutes of the start, the Jordanians’ attacking intent was rewarded by an early goal. Feras Shelbaieh got on the end of a cross and sent it back across the mouth of goal first-time for Abdullah Al Attar who controlled, shielded the ball and fired into the roof of the net to put Al Jazeera in front.

Facing persistent attacks from the home side, Al Jaish slowly regrouped and tried to hit on the counter. Ahmad Ashkar led a swift attacking move, advancing into Al Jazeera’s box and firing from an angle, but goalkeeper Ahmad Abdelsattar made the save.

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The second half started in a perfect manner for Al Jazeera, as Noor Al Rawabdeh’s cross from the right wing was handled by defender Youssef Al Hamwi inside the box as he tried to clear it, and the referee awarded the hosts a penalty kick.

Shelbaieh stepped up and converted from the spot, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way to double Al Jazeera’s lead on the night and put them a goal away from clawing the difference with more than 40 minutes still to play.

The crowd at Amman International Stadium erupted in the 65th minute as the ball nestled into the back of the net for a third time announcing the completing of an unlikely comeback.

Al Jazeera captain Ahmed Saleh sent a perfectly weighted through pass that was met by the run of left-back Fadi Al Natour down the flank. The number 14 delivered a pinpoint cross at the far post for substitute Ahmad Al Essawi who headed home Al Jazeera’s third just two minutes after coming off the bench.

With the aggregate scores now levelled, Al Jazeera took advantage of the momentum and push for a winner. They needed until the third minute of added time to get one, but it finally did arrive.

Al Essawi turned from scorer to provider, curling an in-swinging corner towards the centre of the six-yard area where defender Zaid Jaber beat Al Jaish goalkeeper Ahmad Madanieh to the ball and nodded it home to the cheers of an elated home crowd.

The remaining minutes of added time were marred by two dismissals. First Al Jazeera’s Al Attar received back-to-back yellow cards; first for wasting time then seconds afterwards for a late tackle to see red. Al Jaish’s Mohammed Al Wakid followed suit a minute later, getting booked for a foul then receiving his marching orders instantly for protesting the referee’s decision.

The victory means Al Jazeera face Lebanon’s Al Ahed in the West Zonal Final, with the first leg taking place on September 24 and the return fixture a week later.

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