Al-Riffa, a club from Bahrain Passed through to the finals of the zone successfully. After slashing to beat East Riffa, a club from the same nation. It went on to score 5-4 on penalties shoot-out after a tie 1-1 in 120 minutes in the AFC Cup 2022 West Zone Semi-Finals at Al-Muharraq Stadium, Muharraq.
Al Riffa were in complete dominance for the opening 45 minutes, but had just the one shot on target to show for their 80% possession and eight attempts going into the break as East Riffa looked happy to sit deep and cede possession.
Jassim Al Shaikh met Mohamed Marhoon’s cross from the right first-time but failed to connect properly as his miscued shot was easily picked up by the goalkeeper inside two minutes. Captain Komail Al Aswad then darted on from the right wing towards the East Riffa box and his cross was cleared by the defence but only as far as Marhoon who took possession but blasted his shot well over the crossbar.
Al Aswad was left wondering how the game remained level with 10 minutes to go before the break after Marhoon embarked on a mazy run on the left wing, beating three defenders before sending a low cross from the byline that found its way through a sea of legs to reach the Al Riffa captain at the far post just six yards off the line, but Al Aswad somehow side-footed his finish against the crossbar and back into play.
Head coach Ali Ashour’s Al Riffa side were dealt a blow at the interval as Hashim Isa was unable to shake off a hamstring injury suffered late in the first half, to be replaced by Mohamed Al Romaihi.
Yet to see the sight of goal, East Riffa did get the first chance of the second period, with Ahmed Rashed advancing on the break but with little in the way of passing options, he opted to go all the way and take a shot from 25 yards which ended up sailing behind for a goal-kick.
Early signs of an East Riffa resurgence gave way to more of the same as Al Riffa regained near complete control of the proceedings, while their opponents reverted to shape, keeping clear-cut chances from the men in sky blue to a minimum for the remainder of the 90 minutes.
Ali Haram got extra time off to an exciting start as he found space into the box to head Al Aswad’s diagonal ball towards the far corner, but goalkeeper Hamad Al Doseri was able to stretch out and parry it behind for a corner.
The East Riffa goalkeeper was called into action again right away from the corner as Marhoon’s cross was side-footed by Hamad Al Shamsan and Al Doseri was once more alert to make the save.
Al Doseri’s evening ended prematurely as he had to withdraw at the half-way point of extra time with an injury, being replaced by namesake Rashed Al Doseri.
Fans at the Muharraq Stadium thought Al Riffa had won the game with seven minutes to go as Al Romaihi rose highest to head Al Aswad’s corner kick past the goalkeeper and towards the top corner, but substitute Sami Al Hussaini popped up at the right place and the right time to clear it off the line.
The East Riffa resilience was finally broken after 114 minutes as Syrian international full-back Moayad Ajan delivered a pinpoint cross from the left for Haram who kept his composure to head home what everyone believed was the winner.
It wasn’t to be the case as East Riffa broke out of their shell and were rewarded with an instant equaliser as Abdulla Shallal persisted in the aftermath of a corner, with his first effort from the edge of the area blocked, he retook possession and hammered it into the back of the net to restore parity late on and send the two teams into a penalty shootout.
Abdulkarim Fardan denied Faisal Bodahom to give his side the advantage early on, but with the fifth kick needing to be scored for Al Riffa to progress, substitute goalkeeper Al Doseri was able to save from captain Al Aswad to keep the shootout going into sudden death where Fardan proved his quality again, saving from Ahmed Yaqoob to send his side into the West Zone Final.
With the victory, Al Riffa book a date with Oman’s Al Seeb at the latter’s home ground on October 4 for the West Zone Final.
Credit Photo : AFC