Al Ain beat Ittihad to put one foot in ACL semis

Al Ain are within touching distance of a first AFC Champions League semi-final in nine years, as an unstoppable second-half display saw goals from Ismail Ahmed and Asamoah Gyan condemn Al Ittihad to a 2-0 quarter-final, first-leg defeat.

Matt Monaghan
by Matt Monaghan
19th August 2014

article:19th August 2014

Riding the challenge: Omar Abdulrahman (c) was superb for Al Ain at the Hazza Bin Zayed stadium.
Riding the challenge: Omar Abdulrahman (c) was superb for Al Ain at the Hazza Bin Zayed stadium.

Al Ain are within touching distance of a first AFC Champions League semi-final in nine years, as an unstoppable second-half display saw goals from Ismail Ahmed and Asamoah Gyan condemn Al Ittihad to a 2-0 quarter-final, first-leg defeat.

Months of detailed pre-season work came to fruition for the Boss at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, with the majestic Omar Abdulrahman inspiring an onslaught their Saudi opponents had no answer for.


A tense opening was soon forgotten after the break, as dominant centre-back Ismail Ahmed lost his marker to sidefoot a low Jires Kembo Ekoko cross home after 48 minutes.

A potentially deciding advantage ahead of next Tuesday's return leg was then secured in eye-catching fashion, Omar Abdulrahman's crafting the most delicate of lofted balls, which Gyan dispatched into the bottom corner.

A pre-match boost for the hosts was provided by Didier Ya Konan's absence, the former Hannover forward and star Ittihad recruit failing to recover from the illness that forced him out of his new side's pair of Saudi Professional League victories.

The UAE had waited seven years for a side to make the last eight of the AFC and the packed Hazza bin Zayed – boosted by a stand full of boisterous Saudi supporters – crackled with noise, providing the perfect atmosphere for such a pivotal clash.

Much is expected of the Boss' new look attack, with Miroslav Stoch, Omar Abdulrahman and Jires Kembo Ekoko buzzing behind lone striker Gyan.

Flashes of what is to come in the season ahead appeared, two Stoch crosses almost being converted by Gyan.

The crowd barely had time to return to their seats after the interval before they were lifted off their feet by the colossal Ahmed’s fine finish.

Al Ain were on fire, with the inspired Omar Abdulrahman – predictably – at the heart of everything.

He and Gyan were on another wavelength to the other 20 players on the pitch.

And an outstanding 11th ACL goal of the competition for Gyan was soon to follow, with the assist something to behold.

Omar Abdulrahman looked up from 25 yards and conjured a pass few would even imagine. His scooped through ball saw Gyan race clear and ripple the back of the net.

Omar Abdulrahman was revelling in the last-eight spotlight, the Hazza providing a fitting stage for a talent that continues to shine, once again, under Dalic's tutelage.

Al Ain possess a terrible record in Saudi Arabia, a group-stage defeat in the Croatian's first match in charge against Ittihad the seventh in the club's ACL history there.

On tonight’s evidence, Ittihad look on course to be swept aside as Al Ain's push to become the Boss of Asia for the first time since 2003 continues.


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