Er­bil secures a place in AFC Cup’s Round of 16

The Yel­low Cas­tle club, Er­bil, took the top po­si­tion of Group B in the AFC Cup and se­cured a place in the Round of 16 af­ter win­ning over Oman’s Fanja 1-0 last Wed­nes­day.

The Kurdish Globe - - FRONT PAGE - Zakaria Muhammed Er­bil zakaria.kur­dishGlobe @gmail.com

The match was run at Franso Hariri Sta­dium in Er­bil city with very few spec­ta­tors. Nabeel Sabah scored the only goal just af­ter half-time as Er­bil, who lost last year’s fi­nal to Kuwait Sports Club, moved three points clear of Fanja at the top of the ta­ble.

The match started with sev­eral quick at­tacks by the Er­bil team but the firm­ness of the guest team de­fense line was the main ob­sta­cle on the way of scor­ing goals. Er­bil was well or­ga­nized and co­her­ent in its trans­fer­ring and pass­ing, es­pe­cially in the mid­field line. Striker Am­jed Radhi had his first real scor­ing op­por­tu­nity in the 25th minute but his kick went over the bar.

Af­ter Radhi's at­tack, Er­bil be­gan to con­trol the game and en­joyed the up­per hand in the first half and came close to a break­through af­ter 28 min­utes as Luay Salah’s shot from just out­side the area hit the cross­bar.

Fanja's at­tacks were very few and far be­tween due to be­ing busy with de­fend­ing most of the time in the first half. There were no real threats on Er­bil’s keeper Ja­jal Has­san as Fanja de­pended on counter at­tacks that didn't lead to any scores. The first half ended with 0-0.

De­spite Fanja fin­ish­ing the sec­ond half strongly, Er­bil fi­nally opened the scor­ing two min­utes af­ter half-time as the vis­i­tors could only par­tially clear Alek­san­dar Kosoric’s cross and Sabah was on hand to beat goal­keeper Ahmed Al Hat­tali.

Er­bil came close to a sec­ond just be­fore the hour mark as Kosoric again pro­vided the cross, but Salah struck the cross­bar for the sec­ond time in the match.

But the miss did not prove costly as Er­bil’s or­ga­nized de­fense re­stricted Fanja and the vis­i­tors were un­able to find a re­sponse as the Kur­dish side ex­tended their un­beaten start.

De­spite its loss, Fanja had also en­tered the con­test with a per­fect record, as the Oman cham­pi­ons re­main in sec­ond place with Al An­sar three points fur­ther adrift af­ter the Le­banese side recorded a 2-0 win over Ye­men’s Ahli Taiz.

“I’m proud of the play­ers and their per­for­mance which helped us to win the game and con­tinue in top spot of the group,” said Er­bil coach Ro­dion Ga­canin, known as Radan.

The Croa­t­ian added “We were the bet­ter side in the game and had a good per­for­mance while we missed sev­eral chances, es­pe­cially in the first half".

The rea­son why Er­bil was not able to score in the first half, ac­cord­ing to Radan, is due to Er­bil miss­ing key play­ers. Some changes made in the sec­ond half helped the team to con­trol the mid­field and score the win­ning goal.

Mean­while Fanja coach Hicham Al Jad­ran, said “Er­bil de­served to win to­day as they sur­prised us with their strong per­for­mance which helped them to con­trol the game and score early in the sec­ond half,”

What changed Fanja's plan, in Al Jad­ran's view, was the quick goal af­ter the break as Fanja was look­ing to get at least one point from the game.

“We lost the ball a lot in mid­field due to the ab­sence of some key mid-field­ers. Er­bil is a strong team and they have good play­ers who put in a good per­for­mance to­day, but we will try our best to avenge our de­feat with the re­turn of our ab­sent play­ers next week when we play at home and in front of our fans.” He noted

Con­cern­ing the lit­tle num­ber of spec­ta­tors at­tend­ing the match, an Er­bil fan, So­ran Haider, said Er­bil has a lot of fans but most of them didn't at­tend the match be­cause they didn't want to miss the min­utes of UEFA Cham­pi­ons League matches.

"I at­tended the match be­cause I live in a neigh­bor­hood which is close to the sta­dium. But many oth­ers who need hours to reach the sta­dium stayed home to­day in­tend­ing to watch the Cham­pi­ons league games." Said Haider

Er­bil mid­fielder, Hal­gud Mala Muham­mad, fights with a Fanja player at an AFC Cup match which ran in Franso Hariri Sta­dium last week.

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