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Wihdat hope to advance in AFC Cup

By Aline Bannayan - Apr 29,2017 - Last updated at Apr 29,2017

AMMAN — Wihdat host Bahrain’s Muharraq in Group C on Monday while Ahli play Iraq’s Zawra’a in Group A on Tuesday in the final Round 1 matches of 14th Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup.

Wihdat are now second in the group and need to win to secure qualification to the Round of 16 after holding Lebanon’s Nijmeh 1-1  in their last match. The Jordanian champs were held 1-1 with Muharraq in the first leg, but hope to come out with a victory to help them advance in the regional event after they lost the chance to retain the Jordan Professional Football League title this week following a 1-1 draw with newcomers Sarih. In earlier matches,  Wihdat were held 1-1 with Oman’s Saham and beat them 2-1, and scored a 1-0 win over Nijmeh.

Representing Jordan in the AFC Cup for the first time,  Jordan Cup title holders Ahli  lost their qualifying chance after they lost 2-1 to Syria’s Jeish to stay third. They earlier beat Oman’s Suweiq 2-1 and were held 0-0. They also held Zawra’a 1-1 and lost their opening match 1-0 to Jeish.

Clubs from five Asian Zones are competing in eight groups, with the top two from each group advancing to the Round of 16. This year, prize money has been set at $ 1 million for the winner and $500,000 for the runner- up. 

Locally, Wihdat now have the Jordan Cup in sight  as they have reached the semis. Wihdat have been league champs for the past three seasons, and won the title for the 15th time last year since moving up to the Professional League in 1975.

Ahli started the season beating Wihdat 2-1 to win the 34th Super Cup — the first major competition on the 2016/17 football calendar. However, recently Ahli have been struggling in the league and were eliminated from the Jordan Cup.  

The AFC Cup was previously won three times by Jordanian teams: Faisali won in 2005 and 2006, and Shabab Urdun in 2007. 

It is Wihdat’s 10th time in the competition after their ambitions of competing among top tier teams were dashed early when they were eliminated from the preliminary round of 2017 AFC Asian Champions League (ACL). Jordanian teams have never before made it past the ACL preliminary round. Wihdat were knocked out in 2016 and 2015, while Shabab Urdun were eliminated in 2014.

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