The Kurdish Globe
By Zakaria Muhammed--Erbil
Amjed Radhi's header in the second half was the winning goal for Erbil Football Club against Yemen's Orouba in a match that ended 2-1 at the Franso Hariri Stadium. The Kurdish capital city club finished top of Group B in the Asian Football Confederation Cup.
Erbil FC played its last match in Group B in the AFC Cup on May 4 against Yemen's Orouba at home at Franso Hariri Stadium.
Benefiting from a mistake made by Erbil goalkeeper Sarhang Mohsin, who came out of his box, Hussin Ahmad got the ball and scored the opening goal for Orouba in the 13th minute.
Mohsin rushed back to his goal but Ahmad's effort had just enough weight to carry over the goalkeeper's head and just below the crossbar.
The shocking goal put Erbil in a hard situation as it had to think of equalizing the result then scoring the winning goal. Erbil went on the offensive and put Muaadh Abdulkhaleq's goal under intense pressure.
Erbil's attempts resulted in a score in the 30th minute of the first half when it was awarded a penalty after Halgurd Mullah Mohammad was brought down in the Orouba box. Mahdi Kareem took the spot kick and his effort hit the underside of the crossbar and crossed the goal line before it bounced back into play.
Orouba started attacking again and tried to regain the lead early in the second half when Yaser Al Gabr's excellent shot on the run from 20 yards was well stopped by keeper Mohsin.
Orouba's attacks were responded to with several dangerous attacks from the Kurdish side. Erbil deservedly went ahead in the 62nd minute after a cross from the left side was met by a diving header by striker Radhi that gave Orouba's keeper Abdulkhaleq no chance.
The host team continued to control in the second half. Syrian Abdulrazaq Hussein and Iraqi Radhi played key roles in heating up the match and putting pressure on Orouba, forcing the Yemeni team to stay on the defensive and rely frequently on counterattacks.
Abdulkhaleq made an excellent save to deny Abdul Razaq Hussein midway through the second half, when he turned a fierce right-footed drive by the Erbil striker over the crossbar.
But with the Yemeni side continuing to misfire at the other end, Erbil safely held on to its advantage in the closing minutes to seal its place in the knockout rounds.
Orouba's defeat means it finished third in the group, 6 points behind Erbil and 3 behind runners-up Kazma of Kuwait, which will face Group D winners Al Wehdat of Jordan in the last 16.
After the match, both teams held a press conference. Erbil coach Nizar Mahrous said, "We really deserved to win because we had a great game today against Orouba. The key to our success was playing calmly and without any pressure, despite Orouba taking the lead in the game."
Mahrous admitted his players missed a lot of easy chances that could have ended the match with a higher score. He said he will work on the mistakes his players made during the match so as not to repeat them in the next match against Neftchi.
Orouba coach Mohammed Saleh Al Nifeai said, "We played well and took the lead, but Erbil's equalizer changed the course of the game and made things harder for us."Nifeai was satisfied with the team, despite its exit from the group stage. He attributed the defeat to players" weariness due to the overlap between domestic league matches and the games in the AFC Cup.