Ali Mabkhout’s first-half penalty was the difference at King Fahd International Stadium as Al Jazira collected the three points in a 1-0 win over Mumbai City in Group B of the AFC Champions League™ 2022 on Thursday.
Coach Marcel Keizer’s men dominated the first half, registering 70 percent ball possession by the break, but struggled to create real scoring chances as Mumbai City sat deep, happy to concede play and look to hit on the counter.
The Islanders suffered an early blow as defender Amey Ranawade was stretched off to be replaced by Methab Singh just nine minutes into the game.
The first clear-cut chance of the night fell Al Jazira’s way after 18 minutes, with Abdulla Ramadan sending an overhead pass for Bruno who controlled inside the box and drilled a low effort that goalkeeper Mohammad Nawaz was able to deal with.
Adding to coach Des Buckingham’s woes, substitute defender Singh was the culprit in conceding a penalty six minutes before the break after his raised arm blocked a shot from Abdoulaye Diaby, prompting the referee to instantly point to the spot. Ali Mabkhout stepped up and despite Nawaz making contact with his fingertips, the striker’s effort was too far into the corner for him to catch, handing Al Jazira the lead.
Just like their opponents earlier in the half, Al Jazira lost their centre-back Mohammed Al Attas who was taken off in the last minute of the opening period, being replaced by youngster Nawaf Dhawi.
Nawaz was called into action for a big save within three minutes of the restart as Mabkhout broke free down the right and sent a cross for Zayed Al Ameri who looked to apply the finish, but the Mumbai City goalkeeper made an important save to keep the damage limited.
Skipper Mourtada Fall thought he had scored the equaliser after a goalkeeping mistake from Ali Khaseif, the centre-back outmuscled his marker to head Rahul Bheke’s cross at the far post but his attempt hit the wrong side of the net.
Bheke nearly got his second goal of the campaign when he collected the ball on the right and attempted an effort from 25 yards out that beat goalkeeper Khaseif, but bounced off the woodwork minutes from time.
There would eventually be no way through for Mumbai City as Al Jazira held on to record their first victory of the campaign, moving level with their opponents on three points each.
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