Red Knights dent Mes Kerman's last 16 hopes

Al Ahli's Salem Khamis fights for the ball with Mes Kerman's Piroz Ghorbani during the AFC Champions League match. (OSAMA ABUGHANIM)

Al Ahli coach Noureddine Abidi Al Obaidly savoured a rare victory in the AFC Champions League, which may have dented Iranian side Mes Kerman's chances of advancing to the last 16 round from Group D.

Al Hilal became the first team from the West side of the ACL to reach the last 16 of the 2010 competition.

Even before they kicked off against Al Sadd, Hilal were through after Ahli beat Mes Kerman 2-1.

At the time, the result meant Hilal could finish no lower than second. However, the Saudis later drew 0-0 at home to Qatar's Al Sadd to make sure of first place in the group.

Hilal are on 11 points, four ahead of Sadd with Mes another one point behind on six.

"It was a very tough match because the Iranian team needed three points to qualify to the next round," said Tunisian Al Obaidly after the Red Knights notched their first win in the AFC tournament in five years.

Ahli won thanks to an 84th-minute penalty from star player Ahmed Khalil. Earlier, an own goal from Farzad Hoeesinkhani who came in the way of Faisal Khalil's cross gave Ahli a 31st-minute lead that was cancelled out by Mes's Mahdi Rajabzadeh 15 minutes from the end.

Mes Kerman boss Luca Bonacic was seething at his side's lacklustre performance. "This was not the standard of AFC level", fumed the Croatian.

"This was like a friendly match. I'm disappointed with my players. I played twice in the Champions League and coached Sepahan, who went to the final.

"OK, Al Ahli play as they can. I respect them. But my team were like tourists on a holiday.

"The first goal who scored, Ahli or us? And the penalty kick, I don't know whether it was penalty or not. Anyway, congratulations to the Ahli team."

The affable Al Obaidly calmly deflected the 'friendly fire' comments. "My team played very well, the way I wanted them to play. I'm very happy with these three points.

"Mes Kerman put pressure on us by equalising but we made two changes by bringing in Bare and Salem Khamis."

Al Ahli would need to beat Al Sadd by six goals in their final game and hope Mes lose to Al Hilal to pull off the most unlikely of turnarounds and reach the knockout stage but Al Obaidly was keen just to savour Tuesday's win.

"We will think about the next match later. If we have one per cent chance of qualifying we will play accordingly," he added.

"Mes Kerman are a very strong team. They had more than four chances to score. To be honest I was afraid of them before the match because they had beaten Al Sadd 3-1.

"We packed the defence because they have so many good players even on the bench.

" I think they will do very well in their final match against Al Hilal."

 

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