The 2019 edition of the AFC Cup got underway earlier yesterday, with the teams from Groups A and B competing in group-stage encounters on Matchday 1.
Let us take a look at how things panned out for the various teams, in their respective matches held on Monday, 25th February.
Al-Wehdat 1 – 0 Nejmeh SC
With the first three games all ending in stalemates, Matchday 1 was looking real dreary for while, before Al-Wehdat sealed the first win in the tournament in the fourth and final game of the day.
Playing against Nejmeh SC from Lebanon, the Jordan Club would thank Saeed Murjan the goalscorer, for being the primary difference between both teams, also helping Al-Wehdat secure a table-top position in Group A after the match.
The goal came off a set-piece in the eleventh minute. A chip from around 40 yards found a free Hamza Al-Dardour in the Nejmeh box. Al-Dardour in turn, passed the ball to Murjan rather than attempting a shot himself, also confusing the goalkeeper in the process – while Murjan took all the time he needed to slot the ball calmly into the net.
Watch the highlights here:
Flying fists and two red cards as Al Wehdat beat Nejmeh 1-0 in the AFC Cup
The goal was followed by a barrage of fouls and rough tackling, with both sides producing extremely physical games to get the better of either team. It eventually resulted in the referee pulling out the red card on Chamssi Deen Chaona (Nejmeh) and Al-Dardour himself (Al-Wehdat) for an intense tussle that occurred between both players at the stroke of half-time.
Both teams hence continued play with ten men, but were unable to create another impact on the scoresheet since. The referee produced yellow cards on two other Nejmeh players as well, but barring those, the game got realtively calmer in the second half.
Al-Najma SC 1 – 1 Al-Jazeera
After Kuwait’s and Al Ittihad’s turn against each other in Group B, game three saw Al-Najma from Bahrain face off Jordan-based Al-Jazeera in the second match from Group B yesterday.
Both teams scored a goal each in the drawn match, and the goals helped both sides occupy the top two spots in Group B after Matchday 1. All teams have a point each. Al-Jazeera top the charts followed by Al-Najma, while Al Ittihad occupy the third spot. Kuwait SC is at the bottom of the table, though not much statistical data separate any team from each other in terms of the games we have seen so far.
Speaking of the game, the match began on a fighting note with both teams employing hard tackles to gain possession of the ball. The rough game eventually got into the head of Abdullah Saif the midfielder from Al-Najma, who earned a yellow card for his hard tackle. A goal followed immediately after, as the hosts could offer no solution to Mahmoud Al-Mardi’s shot from outside the box, that flew past the outstretched legs of two defenders and even the goalkeeper, on to the far corner of the net.
Al-Najma’s players looked completely shaken by the goal that went down against the flow of play, and responded with sharper attacks. It paid off in the 31st minute, as Ebrahim Habeeb placed his head on a beautifully weighted high cross from the right wing, tucking the ball into a empty net past the advancing Al-Jazeera goalkeeper.
Watch the match highlights here:
Al Mardi scores from over 20 yards as Al Najma and Al Jazeera draw 1-1 in the AFC Cup
The second half produced no more changes in the scoresheet as both sides completed their quoto of substitutions. Hosts Al-Najma turned out to be the better team at the end of the game that was played in the Bahrain National Stadium, but despite the visible advantage they could not account for a win against their opponents.
Kuwait SC 0 – 0 Al Ittihad
In the first game of the night, Kuwait-based Kuwait SC got locked in a goalless stalemate against Al Ittihad from Saudi Arabia, in a Group B encounter.
The game was held at the Al-Kuwait Sports Club Stadium in Kaifwan, Kuwait. Both teams were obviously trying to take it easy in an effort to not drop any points in their first encounter in the 2019 AFC Cup, and as a result, both teams walked back into the tunnel with a point each, after 90 minutes of regulation time and six minutes of added time.
Al Ittihad defender Ahmad Kallasi found a place in the referee’s books just a minute before half-time. The visitors also used up all three of their possible substitutions by replacing their midfielders at various points in the second half, but it hardly created any positive impact. Kuwait SC made a change each in midfield and attack as well, but overall both teams were totally looking in the mood to play it safe.
Watch the game highlights here:
By virtue of not scoring any goal, both sides now occupy third and fourth spots in the Group B standings, after Al-Jazeera and Al-Najma managed to score a goal against each other in the second Group B fixture from the night.
Al-Jaish SC 1-1 Hilal Al-Quds
In the second game of the night, Al-Jaish SC from Syria challenged Palestine-based Hilal Al-Quds, in what was also the first Group A encounter of the AFC Cup 2019.
Both teams finished the game with a goal each, and shared points in their first encounter of the Cup.
It was Mohammad Obeid of the Al-Quds who opened the scoring in the 18th minute. A corner kick that flew in high into the Al-Jaish box created a lot of confusion among the players for a few seconds, after which Obeid found himself attempting a scruffy shot off a loose ball. The ball went past the goalkeeper’s outstretched palms and deep into the far corner of the net.
Al-Jaish’s reply came four minutes into the second half. Even with defenders all around him, midfielder Ahmed Ashkar attempted a thorough shot that rocketed into the top-right corner, giving the goalkeeper no chance.
Al-Jaish used up all their substitutions by the 70th minute, with the manager preferring to use some fresher legs in midfield for the remainder of the time. But it was of not much avail as there were no more changes to the scoresheet for the rest of the game.
Watch the entire match highlights here:
Coming up today, are six games in the AFC Cup 2019, as teams from Groups C, F and G will compete in their first games of the ongoing tournament, starting from 4:30pm SGT/HKT. Viewers can follow the live coverage of the AFC Cup 2019, on the FOX Sports Network.