Al Ain 2 Al Rayyan 1
Al Ain Kembo-Ekoko 34',Brosque 70'
Al Rayyan Nilmar 32'
AL AIN // Omar Abdulrahman marked his return from injury by laying on the two goals that led Al Ain to a a 2-1 win over Al Rayyan of Qatar as qualification for the second round of the Asian Champions League moved a step closer.
The diminutive midfielder set up Jires Kembo-Ekoko to score the equaliser with a canny pass off a free kick and then lofted a perfectly weighted pass for Alex Brosque to control the ball with his chest before firing the winner past Oumar Barry, the Rayyan goalkeeper.
Abdulrahman was returning to action for the first time after an injury he suffered in the 2-0 away defeat to Esteghlal of Iran on March 13 but the modest 21-year-old UAE international was quick to play own his contributions during a post-match television interview.
"To play and win as a team was what mattered to me," he said. "The goals that were scored were through a collective effort and I may have made a small contribution. To score almost immediately after Rayyan took the lead was a crucial factor. Had we not got the equaliser the pressure would have been on us.
"Thank God it all panned out well for us at the end. It was also an important result after the defeat to Estghalal. This group is still wide open and that means more work ahead for the team. So fingers crossed."
It was the Pro League leaders' second victory in three games in Group D, putting them on six points. The defeat leaves Rayyan bottom with one point.
Al Ain were missing the injured Asamoah Gyan, the Ghana captain and the club's leading scorer, and the goalkeeper Dawoud Sulaiman but were buoyed by the Emirati playmaker Abdulrahman, and Mirel Radoi, the Romanian midfielder, passing late fitness tests before the game.
Rayyan were without two of their foreign contingent, the South Korean Cho Yong-hyung ruled out due to injury and the Uruguayan Alvaro Fernandez suspended for picking up two yellow cards.
Nilmar, the Brazilian, had given the visitors the lead at Tahnoun bin Mohammed Stadium on 32 minutes, capitalising on a mistake by Mahmoud Almas and the Al Ain defence.
Almas, the goalkeeper, charged out of his area as Fabio Cesar and Al Ain defenders Ismail Ahmed and Mohammed Salem went for the ball but the bounce beat all of them and Nilmar, the former Real Sociedad striker, gleefully accepted the gift of slotting the ball into an empty net.
Fortunately for the Pro League champions, the lead did not last long as Kembo-Ekoko fired a low pass from Abdulrahman powerfully past Barry for the equaliser two minutes later.
Al Ain were far more creative in the second half and they came close to scoring when a header from Brosque whizzed over the crossbar off a cross from Abdulrahman.
Barry did well to dive to his left and push out Ismail Ahmed's effort from close range as the home side increased the tempo looking for the lead.
The combination of Abdulrahman and Brosque finally got the breakthrough the Garden City club craved on 70 minutes for the Australia international to score a worthy winner.
Hamid Ismail, the Rayyan defender, said his team played well but were beaten by the better team.
"We did our best. We scored first and had our share of the chances but at the end we were beaten by a good team," he said.
Man of the match
Omar Abdulrahman (Al Ain)