Abu Dhabi: Head coach Henk ten Cate was a proud man after seeing his Al Wahda FSCC side come from behind to beat Iraqi Al Zawraa in their 2021 AFC Champions League qualifier at Al Stadium Nahyan Wednesday.
The Dutch coach, who returned to the United Arab Emirates club last month, found his side behind a minute after the start of the second half when Alaa Abdulzahra gave Al Zawraa the lead despite Al Wahda dominated the first period.
However, Al Wahda equalized 2017 AFC Player of the Year Omar Khrbin in the 62nd minute before Ibrahim Khalil shot the winning goal in the 77th to take his side to Group E, joining Persepolis. FC of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Qatar Al Rayyan SC and FC. Goa of India.
“We played a very good game and achieved our goal of qualifying for the group stage,” ten Cate said at the post-match press conference. “We came from behind to win and this success is for the players.”
“The most important thing is that we won a game that was difficult for us. As I’m still new to the squad, things haven’t been easy either and I’m happy for the players who dedicated the victory to captain Ismael Matar on his birthday.
Al Wahda will now focus on the group stage, which begins next week, after having to withdraw from last year’s edition.
Al Wahda was unable to travel to Qatar to participate in the centralized tournament after several team members tested positive for COVID-19, forcing the team to withdraw.
They will open their campaign against Persepolis, the 2020 finalist on Wednesday.
Al Zawraa head coach Radhi Shenaishil, meanwhile, said Al Zawraa did not deserve to step down as his team had several chances to seal victory after taking the lead.
“We did not deserve this loss tonight although I would like to congratulate Al Wahda on their move to the next stage of the competition,” said Shenaishil, 54.
“Our team generally performed well, but the substitutes didn’t have the impact we expected. Al Wahda took advantage of the mistakes we made while also wasting several chances.