Al Arabi loses to Al Ittihad 3-1
IKOLI VICTOR DOHA
SAUDI Arabian giant Al Ittihad went to the top of Group B after its impressive 3-1 victory in the AFC Champions League against Qatar’s Al Arabi, thanks to goals from Naif Hazazi (two) and Hamad Montashari on Tuesday.
This victory win takes Ittihad’s points tally to six. It is followed by Baniyas of the UAE on four, Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan on two points and Arabi pointless.
Arabi which lost its opening match of the group to Baniyas, had to win the match to stand any chance of qualifying from the group but its lack of cohesion presented the visitors the impetus to control the match all through the evening.
Speaking after the match, Arabi’s new French coach Pierre Lechantre said, “I started with the team only two days ago and I thought that we pushed Ittihad very hard but they had better quality in the end. Of course, I would like to play the same style as Barcelona but I don’t have Messi, Iniesta or Xavi here.” “When we win, everyone is responsible and it’s the same thing when we lose. So we must try to take the positives from this performance and try to play with confidence in our next league match,” said the Frenchman.
Ittihad coach Raul Caneda Perez who’s also new to the two-time AFC Champions League winner, said, “We played very well tonight. We knew that we would be under pressure from Arabi in the first 15 minutes because they were playing at home but after that, we showed our character and scored the goals that won us the game.
“It was a good result and we have done well so far in the AFC Champions League so we must try to continue to play well and also improve our position in the Saudi league,” he added.
While Arabi enjoyed much of the ball possession in the opening stages, it was the visitors who went ahead in the 21st minute. A deep cross from the left flank by Mishal al Saeed was knocked back from the right byline by Mohammad al Rashed to Mohammed Noor, who teed the ball up for Hazazi, returning to the action after suspension, to finish with a low right-footed shot that beat goalkeeper Rajab Hamza.
Arabi pressed hard for an immediate response and five minutes later, Leonardo Pisculichi’s persistence paid off. An Ittihad defender dreadfully failed to control a ball that bounced in front of Pisculichi and the striker coolly placed the ball perfectly past goalkeeper Mabrouk Zaid to draw levels.
However, Montashari made up for his dreadful error when he restored his side’s lead on the halfhour mark. A corner by Rashed was flicked on at the near post towards the Ittihad centre back, who guided the ball home with an excellent diving header.
Pisculichi’s wayward long-range efforts showed signs of Arabi’s lacklustre display. It could not press further after going behind for a second time and Zaid was rarely called into action as Ittihad comfortably kept Arabi at bay for the rest of the match.
Arabi’s effort in playing the ball from the midfield with Pisculich, Boualem and Abdullar failed to give the killer pass for striker Arafat, who was lonely searching for a loose ball to pounce on.
There were two yellow cards flashed by referee Lee Min Hu from South Korea to Arabi’s Pisculichi in the fifth minute and Mishal al Saed for Ittihad in the 40th minute.
Ittihad stayed back in the second half. After comfortably absorbing Arabi’s attacking threats, it sealed the win with nine minutes remaining through Hazazi’s clinical header that gave goalkeeper Rajab Hamza little chance.