Riffa held by Al Nahda in AFC Cup
TDT | Manama
The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com
Bahrain’s Riffa Club were held to a 1-1 stalemate last night by Oman’s Al Nahda in the first-leg of their West Zonal semi-final in the 2023/2024 AFC Cup.
Ali Haram put the Bahrainis ahead two minutes after the hour-mark at Khalifa Sports City Stadium in Isa Town, but Inters Gui brought Nahda back on level terms a quarter-hour later to send the head-to-head to the decisive second-leg tied, with the Omanis having scored a crucial away goal.
The West Zonal last four is being played in a two-leg format. The return game is scheduled to take place on Monday next week at Sultan Qaboos Sport Complex in Muscat.
The winners of this West Zonal semis pairing will take on the victors of the other match-up between Al Ahed of Lebanon and Al Kahrabaa Club of Iraq.
The first-leg of their encounter is set for tonight, also in Muscat, and then they play again on Tuesday next week at Basra International Stadium in Iraq.
The West Zonal final will then take place on April 16 and 23.
The AFC Cup is the annual club competition of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for the continent’s top teams not in the AFC Champions League.
Riffa are the lone Bahraini outfit in this year’s tournament. In their draw last night, Riffa had a few chances to go ahead in the first half but could not apply the finishing touches.
Header But after the re-start, Haram was able to find the net in the 62nd minute with a header from close range between two Nahda defenders, off a long cross from the right supplied by Ali Hassan Saeed.
Just six minutes later, Aymen Harzi had a shot on target from the outside edge of the penalty box, but it was punched away by a diving Nahda goalkeeper Ibrahim Al Mukhaini.
Gui made Riffa pay after scoring in the 77th minute. His initial attempt bounced off the crossbar, and he reacted quicky to send the ball home with a header off the rebound.
Star midfielder Komail Al Aswad had a chance in the 84th minute to put Riffa back in front, but his left-footed effort in the area flew inches wide of the right post.
Riffa booked their place in the AFC Cup’s knockout stages after finishing as winners of Group C in the preliminary round.
Nahda, on the other hand, were the topranked squad from Group A.
The West Zonal champions will advance to the AFC Cup final, scheduled for May 5.
There, they will take on the winners of the Inter-Zone final, to be played over two legs on April 17 and 24. Riffa made it to the West Zonal final last year, but lost to eventual champions Al Seeb Club of Oman.
The Bahrainis hope to advance to the title match this time round.
They are looking to become only the second club from the Kingdom to win the tournament title.
Muharraq won the AFC Cup twice in the past, in 2008 and in 2021, and also finished as runners-up in 2006.