Lebanon's Al Ahed FC have the upper hand in their AFC Cup semifinal after scoring a precious away goal against Air Force Club from Iraq in a 1-1 draw at the Saoud bin Abdulrahman Stadium in Qatar on Tuesday evening.
The Lebanese outfit are potential opponents of defending champions, Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) of Malaysia, who are favourites to win their semifinal against Bengaluru FC, of India. The latter two sides play the first leg at Larkin Stadium in Johor Bahru on Wednesday night.
Syrian midfielder Zanier Al Medani gave Iraq's Air Force Club the lead in the 24th minute before Hussein Dakik levelled the scores just after the hour mark, leaving matters in the balance ahead of the second leg in Beirut on Oct. 18.
Air Force were missing key striker Hammadi Ahmad through suspension. According to the-afc.com, the 26-year-old Iraq striker was the AFC Cup's top scorer with 14 goals, but his international teammate Humam Tareq returned to the bench after back surgery had ruled the midfielder out of the quarterfinal against Syria's Al Jaish.
Air Force hit the front in the 24th minute, gifted by Al Ahed goalkeeper Hassan Bittar. Al Medani's long range shot slipped between Bittar's fingers before going through his legs and into the goal.
In the 55th minute, the home side should have doubled their lead. But Emad Mohsin couldn't take advantage in a one-on-one situation with Bittar, who deflected a shot to his right.
Al Ahed would punish the Iraqi side six minutes later. From a free kick, Abbas Atwi released Dakik behind the Air Force wall, and his well-struck shot beat goalkeeper Talib at the near post.
Air Force had two more promising chances in the last quarter of the game that would have given them victory on the night. But Al Ahed held firm for a result that gives them confidence ahead of the home leg in three weeks' time.