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  • Sheryll Mericido

Al Ittihad secures 1-0 win over Air Force Club in AFC

JEDDAH — In a closely-contested showdown at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium, Al Ittihad clinched a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Air Force Club in Group C of the AFC Champions League 2023/24.

The match remained a stalemate for the majority of the game until Abderrazak Hamdallah delivered a late goal, securing three crucial points for the Jeddah-based side.

While Nuno Espirito Santo's squad created numerous scoring opportunities, a blend of missed chances and tenacious defending from Ayoub Odisho's players kept the scores level for 94 minutes.

In the dying moments of the game, Hamdallah's decisive strike in stoppage time sealed the triumph for Al Ittihad.

From the opening whistle, the home team applied relentless pressure, with an early chance in the seventh minute when Jota's corner found Romarinho. Unfortunately, the far post denied him as the rebound went unclaimed by the rest of the team.

Soon after, Saleh Al Amri appeared to have broken the deadlock, but an offside call nullified the goal due to Jota straying offside in the buildup.

In the first half, Al Amri missed a golden opportunity when Jota's cross found him just six yards away, but his shot struck the goalkeeper's body.

As the first half concluded, Romarinho's attempt from close range was thwarted by the Iraqi goalkeeper, preserving the deadlock.

In the final 20 minutes, Abdullah Al Muaiouf was called into action when Ibrahim Bayesh's powerful long-range shot forced a diving save.

Romarinho experienced further frustration as his direct free-kick struck the crossbar and was subsequently cleared by defenders after Hamdallah was fouled just outside the penalty area.

In the waning moments of stoppage time, N’golo Kante's precise cross found Hamdallah, who capitalized on defensive lapses to secure the late match-winner.

The two sides are slated to meet again in two weeks at Erbil’s Franso Hariri Stadium in Matchday Four.

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