Kuala Lumpur: The West Asia side of the AFC Cup has provided many moments of magic and stunning strikes to savour and, with the 2021 campaign kicking off on Friday, we review some of the best.
From terrific team goals to amazing acrobatics and fantastic free-kicks, the West Asian clubs have more than contributed their share of memorable AFC Cup highlights.
The-AFC.com turns the clock back to recollect five outstanding entries to the competition's collection ahead of the 2021 AFC Cup's West Zone kick-off on May 21. Don't forget to vote for your favourite at the bottom of the article!
Berdiev: Physical readiness the key to Nasaf’s AFC Cup success
Dushanbe: Ruzikul Berdiev said his FC Nasaf team’s superior physical condition was a key factor in their decisive 2-0 AFC Cup win against Altyn Asyr on Thursday.
Settled by first half goals from Shohmalik Komilov and Husain Norchaev, the result confirmed Nasaf as Group F winners, with the 2011 champions taking a maximum nine points and three clean sheets from their week in Dushanbe.
Preview - Group A: Syria's Al Wahda the first step in Al Ahed's AFC Cup title defence
Manama: Reigning AFC Cup champions Al Ahed FC get their 2021 campaign underway with a levantine derby clash against Syria's Al Wahda on Friday.
With Oman’s Al Nasr SC having withdrawn from the group, the three remaining teams will vie for one spot in the West Asia Zonal semi-finals, with there also being the possibility of the best runners-up going through as the best second-placed team from the three groups.
The two sides most recent meeting was in the 2016 AFC Cup Round of 16 when the Lebanese side beat their opponents 4-0, including a Mohamadou Drame brace in the final minutes, with Al Ahed going on to lose the semi-final against eventual champions, Iraq’s Air Force Club.
Al Ahed, however, won the 2019 title and with the 2020 AFC Cup cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they will enter the fray as defending champions.
Preview - Group B: Al Salt seek winning AFC Cup debut against Muharraq Club
Amman: Jordan’s Al Salt make their AFC Cup debut on home soil as they take on Bahraini powerhouse Muharraq Club at King Abdullah II Stadium in the opening match of Group B on Friday.
The game marks a new milestone on a dream journey for the side based in northwest Jordan. Al Salt had been promoted to the top division for the first time in their history in 2017-18 and have since finished fifth then fourth in the Jordanian League, earning a ticket to the 2021 AFC Cup.
Preview - Group B: Balata Center set for stiff AFC Cup test against Al Ansar
Amman: Palestinian side Balata Center face an uphill battle as they make their continental debut against Lebanese powerhouse Al Ansar FC at King Abdullah II Stadium on Matchday One of the 2021 AFC Cup Group B on Friday.
Balata Center are set to become the fifth side from Palestine to appear in the AFC Cup group stage after Taraji Wadi Al Nes in 2015, Ahli Al Khalil and Shabab Al Dhahiriya in 2016 and Hilal Alquds in 2019.
Preview - Group C: Different AFC Cup missions for Al Ama’ari Center, Al Faisaly
Amman: Two-time AFC Cup champions Al Faisaly return to the competition after missing out on the 2019 edition as they face Palestine’s Al Ama’ari Center on Matchday One of the 2021 AFC Cup Group C on Friday.
One of the most successful clubs in AFC Cup history, Al Faisaly were crowned champions for two consecutive years, winning the 2005 and 2006 editions and then reached the final in 2007, losing to compatriots Shabab Al Ordon, but since then they have not been able to repeat the feat, reaching the semi-finals on two occasions, in 2013 and 2018.
Preview - Group C: AFC Cup newcomers Tishreen ready for Kuwait SC's challenge
Amman: Syrian champions Tishreen make their AFC Cup debut against three-time winners Kuwait SC as the two sides clash on Matchday One of Group C of the 2021 AFC Cup on Friday.
Tishreen qualified to the AFC Cup after winning the Syrian League title for the second year in a row, and if they are to make an impression in their inaugural campaign, head coach Maher Bahri will rely on the goal scoring ability of striker Bassil Moustafa, an AFC Cup veteran with numerous appearances in the competition for Syrian sides El Jaish and Al Wahda.
“We know that the match is very difficult because Kuwait SC are a big team who have big continental and local achievements and titles while are playing in the competition for the first time. We have a group of excellent players and it will be an important match in order to prove that we can compete for the top spot in the group," said Bahri.