Analysis: Air Force weather Al Ahed comeback to keep title defence on track
Beirut: Air Force Club let slip a two-goal lead as Al Ahed staged a second half comeback to secure a 2-2 draw, but the draw was still enough for the reigning champions to advance to the West Asia Zonal Final with a 5-3 aggregate victory.
The Iraqi side are chasing an unprecedented hat-trick of titles after winning the last two AFC Cup titles, and they showed in a powerful display why they are so difficult to beat.
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Young Iraqi star Humam Tareq showed just why he is regarded as one of the country’s brightest young talents with another standout display in midfield.
The 22-year-old was ever-present all across the pitch, in attack and defence, as shown on his touch map (below).
In total he had 59 touches of the ball, with 29 passes and one assist. Highlighting how difficult he is to defend he drew four fouls from Al Ahed, the most of any player from the Iraqi side.
The mark of a good striker is someone who can influence a game with little of the ball, and Hammadi Ahmad is the epitome of a good striker.
The 2016 AFC Player of the Year nominee didn’t see a lot of the ball, in fact he had only 21 touches and 15 passes on the night, as shown on his attacking map (below).
But it was he who opened up the scoring with a typically clinical finish, and it was his presence in the penalty box that led to the defensive error from Al Ahed for the visitors’ second goal of the match.
It was a disappointing end to the campaign for Al Ahed, but one player who can hold his head up high is Mohamad Haidar. The silky midfielder was his side’s best player on the night, with his dangerous balls from out wide causing trouble for the Air Force Club defence.
As his heat map (below) shows, he was prolific in the front third for the home side and it was he who was at the centre of Al Ahed’s best work.
Across the match the 28-year-old completed 61 passes, the most of any player on the pitch for any side, and did so at an impressive 87 percent accuracy. Together with this he also won seven fouls, highlighting how difficult he was to defend, and had five key passes, which was also the highest of any player on the pitch.
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