The Al Najaf team qualified for the 16th round of the 5th Arab Champions League, after achieving its second straight win over the Shirazin team from the Comoros Islands. Victory was ensured when Al Najaf scored one goal in the teams’ second encounter, in a match that had the two teams facing off at the Khaled bin al-Walid Stadium in the Syrian city of Homs. The teams’ first encounter had ended with an Al Najaf victory following eight unanswered goals. Sahl Naim of Al Najaf scored the only goal in the rematch, in the 41st minute of the first half.
In a closely fought first half, the Shirazin team seemed to perform better than it did in the first encounter, taking advantage of the apparent over-confidence of the Al Najaf players, who were sure they would qualify as a result of their big win in the first round. The team was also down one player, with the absence of Nabil Abbas, whose transfer to the Al Wakrah team of Qatar has not yet been confirmed by Al Najaf management.
The first twenty minutes of the match was a demonstration in evenhanded play between the two teams. The Comoros team threatened to score on several occasions during the game, and on its side, Al Najaf had two chances to score, but neither constituted a danger worth mentioning.
In the 37th minute, the Shirazin team was awarded a direct free kick after one of their players was tripped by Iyyad Sudayr, who was also given a yellow card. But the Shirazin player missed the free kick.
In the 41st minute, with the ball under Al Najaf’s control, player Sahl Naim was able to score the first and only goal for Al Najaf with a powerful kick, thereby ending the first half of the match with Al Najaf ahead by one point.
During the second half of the game, the Al Najaf team came out in better shape than in the first half, apparently due to some instruction from coach Abdulghani. The Al Najaf players got an opportunity when a shot by Hatim Sahib missed the goal in the 4th minute of the first half, which forced the Shirazin team back to the defensive zone, fearing a replay of the whopping victory that took place during the first match. Thus, the second half came to a close with one exchange: Al Najaf attacked and the Shirazin defense and goalie scattered. As a result, Al Najaf won with the single goal scored in the first half, which qualified the team for the 16th round of the championship.
The match was led by a Syrian referee crew made up of Mahmoud Abbas at midfield and assistant referees Shakir Hamidah, Muhammad Attal, and Ahmad Dalwu, while Ibrahim Abu Farah of Jordan monitored the game.
The Al Najaf team will continue preparing for the upcoming championship matches, and will participate in a training camp in the United Arab Emirates on the invitation of the Emirati Ajman Club.