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Beirut: Three goals in 11 minutes late in the second-half mean Al Wahda have one foot in the 2017 AFC Cup West Zone final after Jordan’s Al Wehdat collapsed under pressure from the Syrian side.

What had looked to be a finely balanced tie as the teams went into the half-time break with a goal apiece, turned into a procession in the second-half as Hossam Al Sayed’s side notched up the goals that leave them just 90 minutes away from progressing.

While Al Wehdat will have home field advantage and the consolation of an away goal in the second leg, the odds would seem to be stacked against Adnan Hamed’s side remaining active in the competition beyond the end of May.

Substitute Rafe the key for Al Wahda

Raja Rafe’s impact from the bench was significant, swinging the game in Al Wahda’s favour after the 34-year-old – who previously played for Al Wehdat’s domestic rivals Al Faisaly – was introduced in the 60th minute for Majed Al Haj.

While Rafe rarely strayed beyond the central attacking areas during his time on the field, his impact was significant over the course of the 30 minutes plus stoppage time he was involved in the game, the striker scored twice to put Al Wahda in command of the tie.

The first came from outside the penalty area when he latched on to Osama Omari’s ball across the face of goal as he thumped his shot to right of Tamer Hamed’s despairing dive in the 77th minute.

And seven minutes later he capitalised on an error by the goalkeeper, who fumbled his attempt to collect a ball from the right into Rafe’s path and the veteran forward headed home with glee.

Abu Amara shines but Faisal falls short

Monther Abu Amara and Baha Faisal have carried most of Al Wehdat’s attacking threat so far in the 2017 AFC Cup and Abu Amara was a key figure for his team once again, scoring the goal in the first-half that saw the teams go into the break level.

But where in the past Al Wehdat have been able to boast a two-pronged threat behind striker Ahmad Wridat, Faisal was short of his usual standards on Tuesday evening and that lack of penetration on both sides deprived the Jordanians their most potent weapon.

Both will have to be at the very top of their game when the teams meet again in two weeks’ time if Al Wehdat are to have any hope of overturning the three-goal deficit and capitalise on the away goal Abu Amara claimed.

Substitutions key for Al Wehdat

While Rafe claimed the headlines with his two-goal contribution in Al Wehdat’s win, his was not the only introduction to see the game swing in the Syrian side’s favour in the second-half.

Qusay Habib’s introduction in the 70th minute for Mohamad Hassan – scorer of Al Wahda’s opening goal in the first-half – brought added vigour and direct running into Al Sayed’s team, and it was from one his darts into the penalty area that Al Wehdat’s capitulation began.

Habib was brought down in the area by Ahmad Elias and, Mohammad Al Ghabbash converting from the spot, the tide turned in Al Wehdat’s favour as the Syrians proved how effective the bench at the coach’s disposal can be.

Photo: Lagardère Sports