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Wihdat, Ahli aim for wins in AFC Cup

By Aline Bannayan - Mar 05,2017 - Last updated at Mar 05,2017

AMMAN — Jordan Cup title-holders Ahli host Iraq’s Zawra on Monday while Jordan Professional League champs Wihdat play an away match against Bahrain’s Muharraq on Tuesday in stage 2 of the 14th Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup.

With clubs from five Asian Zones competing in eight groups, and the top two from each group moving to the Round of 16, clubs aim to secure all the points they can early on.

Wihdat will seek to build on their opening 1-0 win over Lebanon’s Nijmeh. They are now second in Group C which is led by Oman’s Saham who beat Muharraq 3-2.

Ahli, who are representing Jordan in the AFC Cup for the first time, need to make up for their opening 1-0 defeat to Syria’s Jeish in Group A. They are in last spot in the group which is led by Jeish after Oman’s Suweiq were held 0-0 by Zawra.

Both clubs have local and regional aims. The local season opened with Ahli making history when they beat reigning league champs Wihdat 2-1 to win the 34th Super Cup — the first major competition on the 2016/17 football calendar. However, Ahli have been struggling in the league and were eliminated from the Jordan Cup. They are fresh out of a 3-1 win over Faisali and are looking to score another victory on Monday. 

Wihdat reached the Jordan Cup semis and are now second in the league. They have been league champs for the past three seasons and won the title for the 15th time last year since moving up to the league in 1975.

This season, Wihdat regional ambitions of competing among top tier teams were dashed early when they were eliminated from the preliminary round of the 2017 AFC Asian Champions League. They beat AFC Cup runners-up India’s Bengaluru FC 2-1 in the preliminary round, but lost 3-0 to UAE’s Wihda in the play-off thus failing to advance to Round 1 of the prestigious Asian competition. They thus moved to the continent’s second-tier club event — the AFC Cup. Had Wihdat advanced in the ACL, Jazira would have joined Ahli in the AFC Cup.

Jordanian teams have never before made it past the ACL preliminary round. Wihdat were knocked out in 2016 and 2015, while Shabab Urdun were eliminated in 2014.

It is Wihdat’s 10th time in the AFC Cup, and alongside aspirations for the professional league title, the Jordanian league title-holders hope to win the record $1 million prize money set for the winner. The event was previously won three times by Jordanian teams: Faisali won titles in 2005 and 2006, and Shabab Urdun won in 2007.

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