Gulf News- The quarterfinals of the Asian Clubs
Championship for the West Zone come to a close tonight as Estighlal face
Kuwait and Al Wahda play against Nasaf Karsi with the door wide open for
all four teams for the two seats that promote to the semifinals of the
Estighlal of Iran lead the tournament with four points from two matches. Kuwait Club of Kuwait and Nasaf Karsi of Uzbekistan have two points each while hosts Al Wahda are fourth and last with one point.
Estighlal need one point to secure their berth in the semifinals against the top teams form the East Zone in their match against Kuwait today while their opponents need to win to earn a seat in the next round bearing in mind that the chance is also available for both Al Wahda and Karsi in the last match.
Both Al Wahda and Karsi will hope that the Iranians win their match to kick off at 5:35 pm. Then one point will be enough for the Uzbeks to reach the semifinals while Al Wahda in all cases need to win the three points.
In the case of a tie in the first match then the Uzbeks need to beat Al Wahda as Kuwait have a better goal margin. Kuwait scored three goals and conceded as many while the Uzbeks scored twice and conceded as much.
The Iranians are the best team in the fray. But their indifferent attitude against Nasaf Karsi scared them as the Uzbeks took lead and were about to emerge winners had they concentrated more in finishing the sitters that came their way.
They are not expected to repeat that performance in their last match today realising that a defeat means their exit from the competition. And despite the fact that they know one point will be enough for them to reach the next round, they will apply their balanced attacking game in order to prevent Kuwait from taking the lead.
Kuwait's key strikers Faraj Laheeb and Khalaf Al Salamah will be under tight marking after they proved their outstanding capabilities against the Uzbeks and the hosts.
Meanwhile, Al Wahda have a tough job in front of them facing the hard-tackling Uzbeks who forced the Iranians and Kuwaitis to settle for draws.
They are fast, physically fit and tall which give them superior aerial abilities, one of the drawbacks of the UAE's football in general.
Jo Bonfrere, the Dutch coach of Al Wahda, have to plan carefully for this particular match with the sole aim of winning the three points after failing to win more than a single point from two matches. His team have scored five but conceded seven, the only team in the competition in the red with two goals debit.
Al Wahda have no way to reach the second round if they did not win the three points and even then they will need the services of the Iranians to beat the Kuwaitis and terminate their hopes of collecting more than their two points.
Beating Nasaf Karsi will not be an easy task but of course not impossible.
Bonfrere have to select the ideal line up to achieve that goal. Ramadan Mallullah have been outstanding in goal while despite the fact that his defence was shaky and vulnerable at crucial moments, the coach has no other options but to give the chance to the same line up that played the last match against Kuwait with Abdul Aziz Ahmed, Al Hay Jumaa, Salim Zayed and Basheer Saeed.
The biggest problem that might face Bonfrere will be the absence of his pivotal midfielder Abdul Salam Jumaa who has injured his ankle on Friday and might miss the match. Abdul Salam is irreplaceable.
The Al Wahda's top professionals Al Enazy, Al Ruwaisi and Conteh have to be extra outstanding in tonight's match to lead their team to the semifinals after two off colours performances for Al Ruwaisi and Conteh while Al Enazy is expected to score goals in addition to creating them.
The two teams from the West Zone will not be decided before the end of the two matches as Estighlal will play against Kuwait at 5:35 pm while Al Wahda will face Nasaf Karsi at 8:05 pm tonight at Al Nahyan Stadium which will surely add to the thrill and excitement of the two encounters.