Erbil beats Shabab in AFC Cup opener
The team from the Kurdish capital, Erbil, played its first match in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup on February 26 against Shabab of Jordan in Amman International Stadium.
Three second-half goals saw former finalists Erbil record a 3-1 comeback win in Wednesday’s AFC Cup Group D opener.
Ablaye Papa Diop deservedly opened the scoring for 2007 champions Shabab nine minutes before half-time, pleasing the local fans.
The happiness of the host team did not last long, however, as Luay Salah equalized for 2012 runners-up Erbil soon after the break. Erbil were well-organized and coherent in their passes, especially in midfield. Another two goals from Amjed Radhi and Borja Rubiato secured victory for the visitors.
Shabab, who lost in the first round of the AFC Champions League play-offs to Bahrain’s Al Hidd earlier this month, dominated the first half against Erbil and took the led nine minutes before half-time as Diop’s looping header from Issa Al Sapah’s corner beat goalkeeper Jalal Hassan.
But the lead lasted just nine minutes into the second half as Salah headed home Burhan Sahyouni’s cross.
Erbil completed the turnaround just six minutes later as Amjed Radhi capitalized on an error from Mohammed Shishani to beat goalkeeper Tamer Salah.
Erbil made the points safe with two minutes remaining as second-half substitute Rubiato converted Radhi’s cross from close range.
While Erbil coach Ayob Odisho did not attend the post-match press conference to share his thoughts on the comeback win, Shabab Al Ordon coach Raed Assaf did not feel the defeat would affect his team’s chances of progression beyond the group stage.
“Erbil knew how to come back from a goal down to win the match. We struggled in the second half and we failed to hold on to our first-half lead,” he said.
He added “However, the defeat should not affect us as we are determined to qualify for the knockout stage of the competition. We must fix the mistakes we made and learn lessons from this match.”
This picture shows a view of Erbil vs Shabab match at the AFC Cup which ran at the Amman International Stadium in Jordan last Wednesday.