Air Force down Al Wahda to book AFC Cup final berth

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Defending champions Air Force Club left it late to beat Al Wahda 1-0 at the Saoud bin Abdulrahman Stadium on Tuesday and book their place in the AFC Cup final.

Substitute Amjad Radhi proved to be the hero as he netted the only goal of the game deep into injury-time, which was enough to help Air Force win the West zone final on away goals after a 2-2 aggregate draw.

It was certainly a dramatic way to keep alive their hopes of back-to-back AFC Cup triumphs, especially given how Air Force spent much of the tie living on the edge.

They entered Tuesday’s game trailing 2-1 on aggregate, a deficit that could have been greater had it not been for captain Hammadi Ahmed pulling one back in the 90th minute of their earlier encounter.

Then, sloppy defending gifted Al Wahda a penalty just eight minutes into the second leg; Zaher Medani getting robbed on possession and tripping Mohammad Hamdkou inside his own area.

However, a poor effort by Mohamad Ghabbash saw his penalty saved by Fahad Talib’s legs, before a follow-up header by Osama Omar sailed inches wide of the gaping goal.

The early scared did shock Air Force out of their slumber and they proceeded to gain an upper hand in proceedings, but were frustrated largely by a well-organised Al Wahda outfit.

But, in the fourth minute of injury-time, the breakthrough finally arrived when Humam Tariq’s inch-perfect right-wing delivery landed on the head of Amjad, who made no mistake in steering his header into the bottom corner.

Air Force will now have to wait till Wednesday to find out who their opponents in the final are from the inter-zone playoff final between Bengaluru and FC Istiklol.

AIR FORCE CLUB: Fahad Talib, Sameh Saeed, Samal Saeed, Sebastian Antic, Ali Bahjat, Zaher Medani, Khaled Mobayed (Ali Yousif Hashim 75’), Fahad Kareem (Amjad Radhi 55’), Emad Mohsin, Humam Tareq, Hammadi Ahmed (Saif Salman 90’).

AL WAHDA: Taha Mousa, Shuaib Ali, Ali Diab, Hadi Masri, Burhan Sahyouni, Mohamad Hasan, Solaiman Solaiman (Assad 77’), Mohamad Ghabbash, Mohammad Hamdkou (Qusay Habib 63’), Anas Bouta (Mohamad Rammal 88’), Osama Omari.