DUBAI, Aug 20 (Reuters) - Impressive displays by Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan and Emirati midfielder Omar Abdulrahman helped put Al Ain in control of their AFC Champions League quarter-final following a 2-0 first leg home win over Al Ittihad on Tuesday.
The Saudi outfit struggled to cope with the duo in the second half with Abdulrahman the fulcrum of the Abu Dhabi side's attacking play and Gyan bagging his 11th goal in nine Champions League matches this term.
The promising display buoyed fans at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium that a first Champions League title since winning the inaugural competition in 2003 could be within their grasp but Croatian coach Zlatko Dalic set out to quell the excitement.
"We achieved a positive result but it is not the end of the encounter. The second leg match will be very hard and we should forget the good result that we achieved today because we have another task ahead of us," Dalic told reporters.
"Al Ittihad are a good side but we know their style and we managed to stop their threat, especially through the flanks. We knew how to stop the quick counter attacks of Al Ittihad and deny them from scoring, which is very important."
After a cautious opening half, French forward Jires Kembo Ekoko found some space down the left and his cross found centreback Ismail Ahmed, who was left unmarked to hook home the opener in the 48th minute.
Gyan kept Al Ittihad goalkeeper Fawaz Al Qarni busy all night and eventually added a second goal just after the hour mark when he controlled a brilliant lofted past by Abdulraham and fired home from 10 metres.
The Saudi side blew a great chance to bag a vital away goal in the closing stages when Abdulrahman Al Ghamdi blasted over from 12 metres after Al Ain goalkeeper Khalid Eisa parried Marquinho's shot straight to him.
Despite the 2-0 loss, Al Ittihad coach Khalid Al Koroni is confident his side can turn around the tie at home next week and keep alive their hopes of a third Champions League title.
"It is a disappointing defeat but we are still in the competition and we must score like Al Ain did tonight in order to advance. Our opponents scored from our own mistakes and they were better in the second period," Al Koroni said.
"We have nothing to lose in the second leg as Al Ain are not better than us. Our opponents have good foreign players while our new players need time to adapt. However, I hope that in the second leg we can make a good comeback." (Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by John O'Brien)
- Sports & Recreation
- Asamoah Gyan
- Omar Abdulrahman