Dubai,April,03: Qatar’s Al Gharafa survived a second-half fightback from Al Nasr to boost their chances of securing just a second appearance in the knockout stages of the AFC Champions League after posting a 4-2 win in Group C on Tuesday.
First-half goals from French striker Djirbil Cisse (pictured), Hamed Shamiand Brazilian midfielder Nene (Anderson Luiz de Carvalho) had seemingly put 2010 quarter-finalists Al Gharafa on course to comfortably secure a second win of the campaign having beaten Iran’s Sepahan 3-1 at home three weeks ago.
But two goals in three minutes before the hour mark from Habib Al Fardanand Bruno Correa gave the home side hope of avoiding a third defeat of the campaign until Lawrence Quaye sealed the win for Al Gharafa with six minutes remaining.
“We had a great game and we showed our good attacking capabilities,” said Al Gharafa coach Habib Tounsi.
”Despite the win, I never expected that we would have such a big result as we took advantage of Al Nasr’s mistakes and we put pressure on them and scored from the chances that we had.
“After taking the lead in the first half, I was afraid that the players would get back and defend and that gave the chance to Al Nasr to reduce the deficit. The game became hard at that point but we scored a fourth goal which helped us to win.”
Having scored twice as Al Gharafa picked up the first win of their seventh AFC Champions League appearance last month against Sepahan, Cisse opened the scoring after 24 minutes with an unstoppable downward header from Nene’s free-kick.
Nene was again involved seven minutes later as the Brazilian midfielder’s pass caught out the Al Nasr defence and Shami raced into behind the static backlinebefore sliding in to guide the ball into the roof of the net with goalkeeper Ahmad Shambih given no chance.
And Nene deservedly added a third in first-half stoppage time as the former Paris St Germain midfielder picked himself up after being pulled back by KhalifaMubarak inside the area before dispatching the resulting penalty coolly past Shambih with virtually the last kick of the opening 45 minutes.
Al Nasr, though, found a way back into the contest four minutes before the hour mark as Al Fardan’s close range header looped over Al Gharafa goalkeeperQasem Burhan who had been largely untroubled for the majority of the opening 45 minutes.
And two minutes later Burhan was again beaten as Correa followed up with an accomplished finish from inside the area after Takayuki Morimoto’s clever flick from Khaled Sarwashi’s cross had been blocked by the Al Gharafa goalkeeper at his near post.
But with six minutes remaining Quaye finally put the result beyond doubt as Qatar international midfielder found space on the edge of the Al Nasr area before firing a low shot into the bottom corner past Shambih.
“The early minutes of the game were hard and the match had a slow start. We made some mistakes which affected us and we gave the chance to Al Gharafa to have a comfortable lead before the break,” said Al Nasr coach Walter Zenga.
“We will be playing nine games in one month and that is why we rested some players because they can’t play a lot of games under pressure.
”Our chance is still there in the group although it is really hard and we will try our best to make a good comeback in the next game.”
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