Air Force Club set sights on successful AFC Cup defence

Air Force Club are believing they can retain the AFC Cup after booking their place in the November 4 final with Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Al Wahda.

The Iraqi outfit’s slender victory, which came courtesy of Amjad Radhi’s 94th-minute strike, saw them win the West zone final on away goals following a 2-2 aggregate draw.

Air Force are now just one win away from retaining the continental crown and are waiting to find out if they will meet last year’s runners-up Bengaluru FC or FC Istiklol in the final.

“I want [to] give my appreciation to Al Wahda for their effort – reaching this stage is a big achievement,” said Air Force manager Hussam Al Sayed, according to the AFC’s official website.

“As for Air Force Club, we are the defending champions and we are very ambitious.

“We aim to retain the title but this will only come through determination, hard work and sacrifice.

“If we were more focused, we could have scored at an earlier stage.

“Anyway, we are grateful to God for this victory. I want to dedicate this win to the Iraqi people and to all the Air Force fans in particular.”

Air Force certainly could not have done the job in more dramatic fashion, with Radhi coming off the bench to net a pivotal late goal.

Having seen his side put in a disappointing display in the first leg, the 27-year-old was pleased they were able to learn from their mistakes.

“I want to thank God for this achievement,” he said. “We weren’t in our best shape during the first leg and there were some errors in that match.

“Thankfully, we fixed those errors and improved in this match. We knew what we had to do and came up with a performance [befitting] the name of Air Force Club, as we are the defending champions.”

A large majority of last year’s title-winning side continue to play pivotal roles for Air Force, including Radhi, talismanic striker Hammadi Ahmed, playmaker Humam Tareq and captain Samal Saeed.