Al Ain cruise into AFC Champions League group stage

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Al Ain claimed a comfortable 2-0 win over Malkiya in the AFC Champions League qualifying playoffs on Tuesday to seal their place in the group stage.

Despite being the dominant side for much of the contest at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, the Emirati giants were initially frustrated by a stubborn Malkiya outfit.

But eight minutes into the second half, the breakthrough finally arrived when Hussein El Shahat was released by Tsukasa Shiotani down the right, and proceeded to play an inch-perfect pass for Marcus Berg to fire into the bottom corner.

Then, in the 61st minute, Bandar Al-Ahbabi whipped a dangerous cross into the box, where it was met by Caio with a glancing header into the back of the net.

From that point, Al Ain were always going to have enough quality to see out the remainder of the match, which they did with little fuss to book their spot in Group D.

Zoran Mamic’s charges will now face off against Al Hilal, Esteghlal and Al Rayyan for a place in the knockout round, and will undoubtedly be looking to better last year’s achievement of reaching the quarter-finals.

AL AIN: Khalid Eisa, Bandar Al-Ahbabi, Mohamed Ahmed, Mohanad Salem, Mohammed Fayez, Ahmed Barman, Tsukasa Shiotani (Amer Abdulrahman 74’), Hussein El Shahat (Ibrahim Diaky 69’), Omar Abdulrahman, Caio, Marcus Berg.

MALKIYA: Abdulkarim Fardan, Sayed Issa, Gege Soriola, Sayed Hashem, Ali Ashoor Mohamed, Nawaf Abdullah, Ammar Hassan (Sayed Ali Isa 76’), Israa Hamwiah, Ahmed Yusuf, Isa Abdul Albari, Hashim Isa.