It was a game that was a microcosm of Shabab Al-Khaleel’s struggles this season- a lack of concentration and an inability to convert scoring chances saw the far more experienced Al-Ahed through to the playoff round of the Arab Club Championship.
Al-Ahed had comfortably dispatched Al-Riffa in the first preliminary round and will now go on to face Omani side Fanja for a spot at this summer’s finals in Egypt.
After gifting a goal and a crucial first leg lead, Toufic Ali was relegated to the bench in favor of Ghanem Mahajneh. The other crucial change saw Ashraf Nu’man recover from injury and return to the starting XI.
It was the aforementioned Nu’man who featured often in the opening stanza of the game, flashing an effort just wide of the post. Oday Kharoub saw his shot sail over the bar a mere minute before Al-Ahed grabbed an unexpected opener.
Despite a concerted effort to peg the score in the second half, Ashraf Nu’man and company could not find an equalizer. Ten minutes from time, Mohamad Haidar struck again for Al-Ahed this time brilliantly setting up Hussein El-Zein to effectively kill any chance of a comeback.
Despite not being able to host their home match, Shabab Al-Khaleel were cheered on by thousands of supporters in scenes reminiscent of Palestine’s matches in Amman during World Cup qualifying.
Shabab Al-Khaleel will now turn their focus to the second leg of the WBPL season- slated to start next week. There is also the small matter of a playoff against Al-Suwaiq of Oman with a place in the AFC Cup group stage on the line.