Lebanon’s Al Ahed made sure of victory on home soil as they defeated Al-Muharraq of Bahrain 1-0 in the first leg of their AFC Cup quarter-final at Beirut Municipal Stadium on Wednesday.
The goal arrived early in the game courtesy of Ahmad Zreik and some steely defence from the home side ensured they never relinquished their slender lead.
Despite the victory, coach Robert Jaspert and his side may rue not making more of the opportunities they had to open up a bigger lead and possibly kill off the tie completely ahead of next week’s second leg.
Jaspert will be particularly disappointed they couldn’t add to their tally in the second half, considering they played the entire 45 minutes against 10 men following the sending off of Abdulwahab Al Safi for Al-Muharraq in first-half stoppage time.
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It was a bright start for Al Ahed as they opened the scoring after just five minutes. An incisive through ball from Denis Iguma caught Al-Muharraq’s defence off guard, allowing Zreik to slot the ball past Sayed Jaafar in the Al-Muharraq goal.
The visitors tried their best to go in search of an equaliser, but they presented Al Ahed’s defence with precious few problems in the first half.
The home side, meanwhile, were unlucky not to pick up a second on 21 minutes, with a crucial block from defender Husain Mohamed preventing Hassan Chaito’s first-time effort.
Jaafar was also on hand to save another effort from Zreik later in the first half, before disaster struck for Al-Muharraq as Al Safi was shown a straight red card for a reckless and late challenge on Zreik.
Despite their one-man advantage, Al Ahed were unable to break the opposition’s defence in the second half, and the Bahraini side will no doubt take confidence from only facing a one-goal deficit ahead of the second leg.
The second leg will take place at the Bahrain National Stadium on 21 September.