Mecca: Head coach Ayoub Odisho says his players’ physical ability was key to Air Force Club’s penalty shootout victory over Saudi Arabia’s Al Wehda FC in their League qualifiers of the 2021 AFC champions at King Abdulaziz Sports City Stadium on Wednesday.
The Air Force fell behind Youssoufou Niakate’s goal after 24 minutes, but the dramatic equalizer of second-half substitute Aymen Hussein in the second minute of added time forced the game to extend, then on penalties, which the Iraqi team won 3-2.
The victory means the Air Force Club will join Sharjah FC of the United Arab Emirates, Tractor of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Pakhtakor FC of Uzbekistan in Group B of the 2021 AFC Champions League in Sharjah. .
“We were physically good in the game, especially in extra time,” Odisho said at the post-match press conference. “Al Wehda played well, especially in the first half when we were not good.
“However, our players made a good comeback in the second half and we were lucky in extra time. The players were in a hurry and they wanted to score quickly as we made a few mistakes in midfield.
“However, the good thing is we won the penalty shootout to qualify.”
The victory means Air Force Club will return to the AFC Champions League group stage after being knocked out by Uzbekistan Pakhtakor in the 2019 qualifiers.
In the mid-2000s, the Air Force Club made three editions of the AFC Champions League but came out in the group stages in 2004, 2006 and 2008 and they will aim to advance from Group B, with their match d opening against Sharjah of the United Arab Emirates scheduled for Wednesday. .
Al Wehda head coach Giorgos Donis praised his players’ performance despite the loss, citing injuries as one of the main reasons for his squad’s elimination.
“I am disappointed because I saw the grief of the players in the dressing room after the game,” Donis said. “I asked them before the game to give everything and they tried a lot.”
“We dominated the game and controlled everything in 90 minutes. We had a balance in our lines and we didn’t give much to the opponents.
“We had a lot of difficulties during the 90 minutes, including injuries to Anselmo and Ala’a (Alhaji) and it affected us a lot,” said the 51-year-old coach. “However, the players gave their best tonight and in the end we lost on penalties.