Captain Omar al-Soma said Al Ahli Saudi FC must quickly forget Wednesday’s 3-0 defeat to Esteghlal FC in the 2020 AFC Champions League and focus on the Round of 16.
The Jeddah giants went into the match with their place in the knockout stage already secured but were undone by goals from Mehdi Ghaedi, Ali Karimi and Cheick Diabaté as the Islamic Republic of Iran club joined them in advancing from Group A.
Despite the defeat, the Saudi Arabia Pro League side finished top of Group A and will play Group B runners-up Shabab Al Ahli Dubai while Esteghlal will face Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor.
“The defeat gives us a chance to look at the mistakes that we made,” said Syrian striker al-Soma. “We will sit with the coach who definitely has several points to make from this match.
“We didn’t play with our normal capability and we must fix this in the next match. We apologise for the fans and hopefully, we can recover in the next match which is the most important match for us now.”
The 31-year-old forward said while there was no pressure on Al Ahli against Esteghlal, it won’t be the same in the Round of 16 as there will no chance to recover.
“We went into the match against Esteghlal without any pressure and the coach rested several players. He gave the chance to new players to play while some even played in new positions,” said al-Soma in explaining Al Ahli’s below par performance.
“We hope to go as far as we can in the competition but the next match is in the knockout stage and if we lose, then we will be out of the competition.
“There will be three matches in the knockout stage and we must give all our best in order to reach the semi-final,” concluded al-Soma.
Defender Saeed al-Mowallad was disappointed with the defeat, despite head coach Vladan Milojevic having made several changes in a bid to keep the Al Ahli squad fresh for the knockout stage. “It was a heavy defeat as we didn’t play to our best. However, the coach gave the chance to new players and rested some for the next stage which is the most important for us,” said al-Mowallad.
“Hopefully we can make things up in the next match. As players we always try to give our best and we promise our fans that things will be better.”
Al Ahli face Shabab Al Ahli in tomorrow’s early Round of 16 tie with Esteghlal facing Pakhtakor later in the day.
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