Oman's Al Nahda go down fighting to Lebanon’s Al Ahed in AFC Cup West Zone final

Sports Wednesday 24/April/2024 07:14 AM
By: Times News Service
Oman's Al Nahda go down fighting to Lebanon’s Al Ahed in AFC Cup West Zone final

MUSCAT: Oman's domestic league champions Al Nahda put up a brave performance before bowing out to Lebanon’s Al Ahed in the AFC Cup West Zone final at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex on Tuesday night.

In the second-leg match, Al Nahda drew with Al Ahed 2-2 but made their exit after the Lebanese club won 3-2 on aggregate following a narrow 1-0 win in the first leg played at Karbala, Iraq last week.

Al Ahed booked their place in the AFC Cup 2023/24 final, courtesy a brace from Lee Erwin.

They will either face Australia's Central Coast Mariners or FK Abdysh Ata Kant of Kyrgyz Republic in the AFC Cup final on May 5.

On Tuesday, Al Nahda saw plenty of the early possession, pinning Al Ahed back in their own half as they looked to level the score up as quickly as possible.

However, despite dominating in the opening 30 minutes, a shot from range by Inters Gui was all the Oman side had to show for their efforts.

A handful of corners for Al Nahda were dealt with, as Al Ahed’s game plan worked for the first half at least.

Despite 80% possession, a half-hearted penalty appeal from Billel Bensaha was waved away, and the two sides went in level at the break.

Less than eight minutes into the second half, Al Nahda’s pressure paid off. Salah Al Yahyaei drove into Al Ahed’s penalty area, finding an unmarked Omer Al Malki to tap home his fifth goal of the competition.

The hosts continued to poke and probe for a second, with both Al Yahyaei and Bensaha at the heart of the action down the channels.

With 20 minutes left on the clock, the No.10 once again danced through the defence from the left hand side, but chose to not pull back and strike at goal, only for his effort to go well wide of the target.

However, despite the run of play, substitute Erwin was picked out by Ali Al Haj inside Al Nahda’s box, who curled the ball into the back of the net to draw level and put the visitors ahead on aggregate in the 82nd minute.

As the hosts began to push forward, Al Ahed countered and found Erwin once again, who carried the ball into the penalty box and scored his third AFC Cup goal.

Al Nahda weren't finished just yet. Walter Bwalya scrambled home from close range in the 90th minute to bring the game back to 2-2.

The hosts had a final opportunity to draw level on aggregate when Al Yahyaei’s cross from the left found Al Malki, but his header bounced over the bar as Al Ahed took their spot in the final. [With inputs from www.the-afc.com]