UAE's Al Ahli qualify for AFC Champions League quarter-finals

UAE's Al Ahli qualify for AFC Champions League quarter-finals
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Published May 28th, 2015 - 18:12 GMT via

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Al-Ahli's Salmin Khamis (C) celebrates after scoring against Al-Ain
Al-Ahli's Salmin Khamis (C) celebrates after scoring against Al-Ain

It took Al Ahli just less than 10 minutes in the second half to turn the match on its head.

The Dubai club, showing nerves of steel and riding on a brace by their skipper Ahmad Khalil, drew 3-3 with arch-rivals Al Ain to qualify for the quarter-finals of AFC Champions League on away goals at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium yesterday.

Trailing by a goal, Al Ahli coach Cosmin Olaroiu had to do something different and immediately after the change of ends, he brought in his trump card Luis Jemenez.

Al Ahli was a completely different team after that as they pumped in three goals in quick time to leave Al Ain shell shocked.

It all started after Salmin Khamis sneaked in a header through a corner to draw level for Al Ahli. Even before Al Ain could recover from that blow, a buoyed Al Ahli hammered in another one — this time skipper Khalil rose to the occasion and after latching on to a measured through from the right from Jemenez, he blasted the goal with an on the run-grounder.

Khalil then doubled the lead after he scored through a rebound following a shot from Everton Ribeiro that was blocked by Al Ain custodian Khalid Eisa.

With the match slipping away, Al Ain pressed hard and they managed to reduce the margin to 3-2 with Ghanaian recruit Asamoah Gyan getting his second goal of the night, 10 minutes from time.

Substitute Raseed Eisa made it 3-3 for Al Ain with an injury time goal but Ahli went through to the next round on away goals. The first leg between the two sides had ended in a goalless draw.

Earlier in the first half, Al Ain started with a lot of purpose and they were immediately rewarded within four minutes. Mohammad Fayez made a mesmerising run through the Al Ahli defence line from left and found Gyan with a diagonal pass.

Gyan, despite having his back to the goal, stopped the ball with his left foot and then took a shot on the turn to leave Al Ahli custodian Ahmad Ashoori rooted.

Then Al Ain’s Omar Abdul Rahman showed his class in the 25th minute when he floated in a brilliant cross from the axis. So pinpoint was that release that all Congo recruit Jires Kembo-Ekoko had to do was tap the ball in but he completely missed it.

The closest of chance for Al Ahli came in the 28th minute. Al Ahli’s striker Khalil tested the Al Ain goalkeeper Khalid Eisa with a breathtaking free-kick from 45 yards but the former was alert enough to punch it out. Al Ain went into the breather with a one-goal cushion but lost their way after the change of ends.

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