Al Ain secured a 3-1 victory over El Jaish in the first leg of their Asian Champions League semi-final in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday but both coaches agreed that Sardor Rashidov’s away goal could prove crucial in the tie.
The Uzbek midfielder converted a 52nd minute penalty for the visitors at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium to keep the Qataris in with a chance of a first final appearance after mercurial playmaker Omar Abdulrahman had shone for the Emirati hosts.
Abdulrahman’s surging run and cross set up Brazilian forward Dyanfres Douglas for a 17th minute opener and the Al Ain skipper fired home a free kick five minutes later to double the dominant home side’s advantage.
“The first half was marvellous for us as we did all that we wanted and scored two goals,” Al Ain’s Croatian coach Zlatko Dalic told the competition website.
“I’m very happy with the victory but I’m disappointed with the goal that we conceded in the second half.”
El Jaish were overrun in the first half but were gifted a lifeline via Ismail Ahmed’s handball in the box and Rashidov made the home side pay when he calmly converted his spot kick.
The Qatari side then had several chances to equalise but were punished in second half stoppage time when Brazilian midfielder Caio scored from close range after goalkeeper Khalifa Ababacar had missed Abdulrahman’s cross.
“The reason behind the drop in our performance was because the players were tired while our opponents had good control in midfield,” Dalic added.
“The return match in Doha will be open for the two teams but we will be hoping to get another victory there.”
El Jaish coach Sabri Lamouchi was disappointed his side had taken so long to find their stride.
“We made a good comeback after a bad start which saw us concede two goals,” the Frenchman said. “It is always hard to get a positive result when you wake up late.”
“To be honest, it will be very hard to score two goals against Al Ain in the second leg but we will not throw in the towel.”
The second leg is in Doha on October 18 with the winners advancing to face either Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors or FC Seoul. Jeonbuk won the first leg of the all-South Korean semi-final 4-1 yesterday.
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