UAE’s Al-Ahli FC team achieved a positive one/one draw with a taste of victory against the Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal in an away game for the semi-finals of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League. Al-Ahli will need to win with any result or acquire a goalless draw in the home game to qualify for the first time in its history for the final match in the league.
Al-Ahli succeeded in holding off Al-Hilal completely during the first half of the match, and closed the midfield and defence in front of the Saudi team. In the second half, the Knights (Al-Ahli) took the initiative and made a Latino stroke orchestrated between the two Brazilians, Lima and Ribeiro. Al-Hilal was agitated, but was able to achieve a draw, which is not a good result for the home team. It is noticeable that, despite the significant acquisition by Al-Hilal, its offensive yield was weak and did not appear well except when Al-Ahli returned to towards the end of the game. Overall, scoring chances for both teams were close, reflecting the Knights performance outside their court and their implementation of the tactical plan set for them in complete success.
The first half did not witness any excitement, without any shots on goal. However, the game was on fire during the second half, especially for Al-Hilal that sought every effort to achieve a draw. Al-Hilal’s total attempts for a goal amounted to 11 shots, including one that was on target. On the other hands, Al-Ahli made six attempts of which three were on target.
Al-Ahli was the most stable and performed intelligent tactics during the game. The centre line was the main factor in stopping Al-Hilal attacks, especially in the first half, through Habib Fardan and Majid Hassan who intercepted and extracted the ball 29 times, 18 and 11 respectively. Salmeen Khamis also played a great role in covering the defence and preventing 16 attempts from reaching a dangerous area. This is in addition to the wonderful rebound attacks of Abdul Aziz Haikal, who intercepted the ball 12 times, and Abdul Aziz Sanqoor, who extracted it 14 times. This quintet has had a great credit in finishing the game at this score.
On the offensive level, the preference was for the Brazilian Lima who was the man behind every serious move for his team and scored a superb header. Lima had a total of four attempts on the goal, including three on target. Ahmed Khalil attempted one shot and so did Ribeiro.
Al-Ahli’s left front suffered a major attack by Al-Hilal, which led Hamid Abdullah inside midfield and Majid Hassan towards the left, then Ismail Al-Hammadi also had to constantly return to close that front, a successful move by coaches. This changed the game plan from 4-3-3, after playing almost 70 minutes, to 4-5-1 towards the end.
Meanwhile, the match saw a very strange penalty, perhaps the strangest in the history of the game. The referee awarded a penalty because Al-Ahli’s defender Salmeen Khamis touched the ball with his hands inside the penalty area. TV replays showed Salmeen holding the ball outside the field, and held to play it to his goalkeeper to continue the match. However, the ensign pointed out that it did not pass the line and forced the referee to count it as a penalty, which was then missed as the ball hit the left post.
The Stadium of King Fahd in Riyadh has seen a carnival celebratory from Al-Hilal’s fans. Tifosi rose to ignite enthusiasm in the hearts of their players, but it was Al-Ahli who was best to win. The Emirati fans did not miss the opportunity to remember the martyrs of the UAE Army who fell recently, as they waved banners bearing a reference to the Emirati state and reaffirmed their support for Saudi Arabia.