Analysis: Dominant Kuwait SC get campaign back on track
Manama: Three-time AFC Cup winners Kuwait SC claimed their first win of the 2019 edition as they eventually saw off Bahrain’s Al Najma 1-0 in Group B on Tuesday thanks to a stoppage-time strike by Shaheen Al Khamees.
Having picked up just one point from two games in their first appearance in the competition since 2015, anything but a win would have left qualification to the knockout rounds unlikely, but in the end they got their just rewards for a dominant display.
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Shooting practice required
Despite Al Najma having enjoyed an excellent start to their campaign and sitting three points above their opponents going into the game, it was the visitors who were the better side throughout.
The Kuwaiti team controlled just over 60 percent of the possession as they took the game to their opponents, yet they struggled to trouble Al Najma goalkeeper Ahmed Rasool.
Out of the 16 shots Kuwait SC had on goal, just three were on target, one of which was a tame first-half effort by Yaqoub Husain when he found himself in acres eight yards from goal.
Indeed Najma, who rarely threatened, managed to post the same number of attempts on target (3) as the visitors, whose shooting graphic (above) shows just how wasteful they were.
Dangerous from wide
Time and again, Kuwait SC caused the hosts problems down the flanks and they put in a total of 22 crosses from open play across the 90 minutes compared to Al Najma’s five.
It was perhaps an indication of their dominance that their left-back, Fahad Al Hajeri, found himself in such advanced positions, although it could be argued they were unlucky a defender was the key beneficiary from their good work out wide.
Three times Al Hajeri was picked out from the flanks but on each occasion his headers, from in and around the six yard box, were off target as the Bahraini side looked to have held on.
Najma offered little from wide and the crossing graph (above) shows that they were completely overrun down the Kuwaiti right, with the visitors delivering 12 crosses from that side compared to none from the hosts.
With just over 30 minutes to play, Kuwait SC brought on the right-sided Shaheen Al Khamees, who had enjoyed only had 16 minutes of action in his side’s two previous games.
The 25-year-old was full of energy, with two of Al Hajeri’s aforementioned misses coming from pinpoint Al Khamees deliveries from the right side (shown below in his key contributions graph).
With 12 minutes to play, the midfielder could have done better when he volleyed over from inside the area, but he was proving a constant menace to the Najma backline.
Then, with the game in its fifth minute of stoppage time, Al Khamees picked the ball up just inside the area, took a couple of touches and curled in an unstoppable effort to claim all three points for his side.
The win moves Kuwait SC level on four points with Najma ahead of the return meeting in Kuwait City in two weeks’ time. Jordan’s Al Jazeera lead the way on seven points.
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