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Al Ahli stun Al Ain to make ACL quarters
By Agnelo Rodrigues May 28, 2015
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Al Ain: Coming from behind with a goal down Al Ahli stunned champion club Al Ain at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium on Wednesday to enter their maiden quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League.

Though the match ended in a 3-3 draw, Al Ahli made it to the last eight through the away goal advantage.

The Garden City club Al Ain opened the scoring in the fourth minute through the boots of Asamoah Gyan, but a brace by Al Ahli captain Ahmed Khalil and defender Salmin Khamis in the second half comprehensively ensured the Dubai club would line up in the last eight, also possibly stay on course for another silverware following their recent Super Cup crowning this season.

Zlatko Dalic’s men started on a strong note right from the opening whistle but failed to sustain the pressure after lemon break as Cosmin Olaroiu’s men struck fiercely and had three goals in the opponents net in less than ten minutes.

Khamis equalized in the 51st minute through a header while skipper Khalil added the second two minutes later. He got another golden opportunity three minutes hence with only the Al Ain keeper Khalid Eisa before him and made no mistake converting it.

Gyan then reduced the margin in the 77th minute, and substitute Rashed Eisa added the third in injury time, but it was not enough to stop the visitors from advancing.

In an the first half, last year’s semi-finalists Al Ain crafted their best chance in opening five minutes when a surging run with the ball at his feet from the middle of the field, Fayez slide a pass to Gyan on the left, and the Ghanaian returned the favour with a swift tap way past Ahli keeper Ahmed Ashoori.

Following Gyan’s heroics, twenty minutes later Congolese import Jirez Kembo-Ekoko could have added to the tally, but failed to convert an easy sitter provided by Omar Abdulrahman right into the box.

A few minutes later the action was at the other end as Al Ain goalkeeper Khalid Eisa made a flying save to deny the visitor’s forward Ahmed Khalil an equalizer.

Going into the match inaugural AFC Champions League winners Al Ain and Olaroiu’s men were equally poised as in their four matches this season both teams had one win each and two drawn encounters. But Olaroiu’s side came to the return meeting in Al Ain with a 5-3 extra-time win against Dubai last Saturday to progress to the semi-finals of the UAE President’s Cup, while Al Ain, the defending champions lost to Al Nasr.

The Boss though had a full side after skipper Helal Saeed and Slovakian winger Miroslav Stoch made a comeback for the tie. In the first leg Stoch was seeing out the fourth and final game of his suspension following a red card against Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor during the group stage, while midfielder Saeed missed the stalemate in Dubai after picking up two yellow cards as Al Ain topped Group B with an unbeaten record.

Prior to last year when Dalic’s side lost to Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal in the semi-finals, Al Ain last reached the quarter-finals in 2006 having also lost the 2005 final while Group D runners-up Al Ahli made their first appearance in the Round of 16 this season after four previous group stage exits.

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