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Wihdat, Ahli play Omani football clubs in AFC Cup

By Aline Bannayan - Mar 12,2017 - Last updated at Mar 12,2017

AMMAN — Jordan Cup titleholders Ahli will play Oman’s Suweiq, while Wihdat host Oman’s Saham on Monday in Stage 3 of the 14th Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup.

Clubs from five Asian Zones are competing in eight groups, with the top two from each group advancing to the Round of 16. This year, prize money is $1 million for the winner and $500,000 for the runner-up.

Ahli, representing Jordan in the AFC Cup for the first time, are now third in Group A and need a win to advance up the standings after they held Iraq’s Zawra 1-1 and lost their opening match 1-0 to Syria’s Jeish. Group A is led by Jeish who beat Suweiq 1-0.

Ahli club Chairman Saeed Shuqum met the team prior to departure to Oman and noted the significance of a win to advance in the Asian event. “Our team has had good performances. Now, we need to start scoring and winning,” he said. “We aim to win for Ahli and Jordanian football,” Shuqum said.

Meanwhile, King Abdullah Stadium in Amman will see Jordan Professional Football League champs Wihdat play Oman’s Saham in the battle for Group C lead.

Wihdat’s coach has to deal with a string of injuries plaguing the line-up, including goalie Amer Shafi’e. The Jordanian champs will seek to build on their opening 1-0 win over Lebanon’s Nijmeh to secure a qualifying spot early on. They held Bahrain’s Muharraq 1-1 in stage 2 to lead the group, as Lebanon’s Nijmeh beat Saham 2-1 to share second place. 

Both Jordanian clubs have local and regional aims. 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.

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. 

This season, Wihdat’s regional ambitions of competing among top tier teams were dashed early when they were eliminated from the preliminary round of 2017 AFC Asian Champions League. They beat AFC Cup runner-up India’s Bengaluru FC 2-1 in the preliminary round, but lost 3-0 to the UAE’s Wihda in the play-off thus failing to advance to Round 1 of the prestigious Asian competition. They 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’s Wihdat’s 10th time in the AFC Cup. The competition was previously won three times by Jordanian teams. Faisali won titles in 2005 and 2006, and Shabab Urdun in 2007.

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