Al Ain fail to emulate Al Jazira, go down to Al Ittihad

Inspired by Al Jazira’s win over Al Shabab in Riyadh 24 hours earlier, the first by a UAE club in Saudi Arabia, in AFC Champions League history, Al Ain had taken the lead through Asamoah Gyan in the Group C fixture.



By James Jose

Published: Fri 14 Mar 2014, 11:36 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 9:18 PM

Al Ain failed to emulate compatriots Al Jazira, going down to Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad 2-1 in a rematch of the 2005 final of the AFC Champions League, late on Wednesday night.

Inspired by Al Jazira’s win over Al Shabab in Riyadh 24 hours earlier, the first by a UAE club in Saudi Arabia, in AFC Champions League history, Al Ain had taken the lead through Asamoah Gyan in the Group C fixture. But Mukhtar Fallatah, who had missed a penalty at the stroke of half-time, scored a brace in the second half, to snuff out Al Ain’s challenge, in Mecca.

It was a disappointing start to Zlatko Dalic’s reign, who had taken over the Garden City, last week.

Asamoah Gyan had given Al Ain the lead on 38 minutes after which Khalid Eisa saved Fallatah’s penalty on 45 minutes. It seemed Lady Luck was indeed smiling on Al Ain at the King Abdulaziz Sport City. But it was not to be as Fallatah made up for the missed opportunity by scoring the equaliser after being teed up by Hamad Al Montashari on 68 minutes. He then sent in a fine header home on 76 minutes to seal the win for Al Ittihad.

Al Ittihad move level on three points with Al Ain and one behind leaders Tractorsazi Tabriz of Iran. Inaugural champions Al Ain had opened their campaign with a home win over Qatar’s Lekhwiya, while Al Ittihad, the only two winners of the competition, had returned from Iran with a loss to Tractorsazi Tabriz.

Al Ain started well with Ismail Ahmed sending his header over and Mohammed Ahmed seeing his shot fly over the cross bar, in the opening minutes of the game.

And Al Ain did take the lead on 38 minutes when Mirel Radoi sent in an inch perfect corner and Gyan shook off Basem Al Montashari to head it past goalkeeper Abdulaziz Al Tukruni.

Al Ittihad got a golden opportunity to go on level terms into half-time when Fahad Al Muwallad was brought down by Ismail Ahmed. But Fallatah saw his low penalty saved by Khalid Eisa. Al Ain could have added a cushion to their lead early in the second half but Gyan contrived to shoot it wide, after being fed by Alex Brosque.

The missed chance probably cost Al Ain the win as Al Ittihad hit back to draw level on 68 minutes through Fallatah. Al Muwallad passed to Hamad Al Montashari, who went further down the line before teeing it back for Fallatah. And Fallatah made no mistake by slotting it with ease. And Al Ittihad took the lead eight minutes later with Fallatah completing a brace. Abdulfattah Asiri sent a cross from the left and Fallatah popped up to head it home.

Al Ain coach Dalic was disappointed man at the end of it. “The defeat is disappointing for us as we failed to hold on to our lead. Al Ittihad fans played an important role in motivating their players in order to make a good comeback and win the match as they supported them throughout the match,” said Dalic.

But Dalic was optimistic of still making it to the Round of 16. “We tried our best to go back home with a positive result but we conceded two quick goals. We lost three points but we still have a chance as all the teams can still qualify from the group,” added the Croatian.

Meanwhile, Al Ittihad coach Khalid Al Koroni was pleased to see his side bounce back. “We had a good match and we could have had a better result. The first half of the match was tactical and we had a good performance and we should have scored from the penalty to finish the first half with a 1-1 score,” said Al Koroni.

“In the second half, we made several changes which helped us to win the match and we should not forget the great support that we had from the Al Ittihad fans. The victory will give us a big boost and now we are back in contention to get one of the tickets to the knockout stage,” he added.

Next up, Al Ain welcome Tractorsazi Tabriz at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, on Tuesday.

james@khaleejtimes.com


More news from Local Sports