The Kurdish Globe
By Zakaria Muhammed-Erbil
Iraqi league champions Erbil took a big step toward securing a position in the AFC Cup semi-finals after defeating Malaysian Super League champions Kelantan 5-1 in the first leg of their quarter-final at home on Sept 18.
Halgurd Mullah Muhammad scored the opening goal for the Kurdish capital city team in the 38th minute but Badri Radzi was able to equalize this result within the next three minutes scoring with a penalty kick.
However, Amjed Radhi restored Erbil's lead with another penalty early in the second half before a goal by Luay Salah and two by substitute Salih Sadeer which appeared to put the tie beyond doubt.
The yellow castle team dominated from the opening whistle while the visitors kept themselves in their area, goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi was kept busy throughout the first half.
Salih Sadeer played wonderfully demonstrating his ability with two goals in his first appearance with Erbil.
Erbil's Coach Nizar Mahrous praised the second-half performance of his side and was pleased although he felt that they could have scored more goals.
After the match a press conference was arranged for Erbil head coach and Kelantan trainer at Erbil Club's conference hall.
At first Erbil coach Mahrous said "I'm satisfied with the performance of the players tonight as they played a good match. We put on a good display in the second half and it was better than the poor first half that we had,"
The Syrian added "We could have scored more than five goals in the match but we missed a lot of chances, especially in the second period. Had the match finished with only four goals, I would have been disappointed by the players. In the first half, the players were not good at all and we made some mistakes. However, the players made a good comeback in the second half as we controlled proceedings and scored four goals."
Meanwhile Kelantan coach Bojan Hodak attributed his side's poor performances to the players' tiredness.
Following their long and exhausting journey from South-east Asia, the Malaysian side struggled to impose themselves on the match at the Franso Hariri Stadium. But they went back home defeated and disappointed.
"To be honest, we didn't deserve this heavy defeat tonight and we could have scored more than one goal but we failed to take any of the chances that we had," said Hodak.
He continued "The players were tired and affected by the long trip here which took more than 30 hours. We also missed five key players who didn't travel with us to Erbil because of different reasons,"
Although the tie may already be beyond the Malaysian side, the Croatian is not willing to throw in the towel just yet.
"We will have some players back in the second leg and hopefully we can get a good result. In football there is nothing that is impossible and we will try our best to win in the second leg next week. We will be looking to defeat Erbil even though I believe they are favorites to win the title this year." he said
Erbil's task is going to be easy in the second leg match which will be played in Kota Bahru this Tuesday. Meanwhile if Kelantan wants to reach the semi-final, they must score at least four goals and prevent Erbil from scoring a single goal when the teams meet again in Malaysia.
Erbil was kicked off AFC Cup last year in the semifinals after they lost a home match 2-0 to Kuwait and tied the return match with the same team 3-3, a result which was not good enough to take them to the AFC final.