Asian Champions League final: Five lessons Al Ain must learn from first leg defeat

Following Al Ain’s 2-1 defeat in the first leg of the final, John McAuley offers five lessons the UAE club should learn if they are to prevail in the return fixture.

Al Ain need to overturn a 2-1 first leg defeat to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors to win the Asian Champions League final. Courtesy Al Ain Football Club
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Following Al Ain’s 2-1 defeat to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in the first leg of the Asian Champions League final, John McAuley offers five lessons the UAE club should learn if they are to prevail in the return fixture and clinch the trophy.

Omar Abdulrahman is better from deep

Clear favourite for Asian player of the year, the Al Ain playmaker performed only in flashes, his usual impact reduced as he led the attack in place of Douglas. At times, Abdulrahman was too isolated, while he was not able to control the tempo from deep and thus create for those in front. Should revert to a deeper role next week.


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Douglas must start the second leg

As mentioned, Douglas’ absence left Al Ain with no real spearhead. Abdulrahman harried and hustled up front, but the visitors were missing someone to really occupy Jeonbuk’s central defenders. Douglas has often been criticised, and has gone missing in matches, but he remains a capable striker. With Abdulrahman supplying, he will have chances in Al Ain.

Leonardo is the main danger

The tournament’s second-top scorer did not have his best game, but he walked away with another two goals and a match-winning contribution. Leonardo has now found the net 10 times in 13 matches this year, which illustrates how important he is to Jeonbuk. Stopping him in the return leg will be key to Al Ain’s chances of clinching the trophy.

Al Ain can be confident of a turnaround

Jeonbuk emerged victorious, but their opponents did enough to suggest they can salvage the tie. In Abdulrahman, Caio, Douglas and goalscorer Danilo Asprilla, Al Ain undoubtedly possess the attacking talent to win the second encounter — they simply need to retain their focus. Yet they must also be cautious, for Jeonbuk boast multiple threats, too. Midfielder Lee Jae-sung is a standout.

Home support is a factor

Throughout the 90 minutes, bar immediately following Al Ain’s opener, the Jeonbuk supporters willed their players on, creating a cacophony that the hosts no doubt used to their advantage. Al Ain will need similar backing next week, when they attempt to end a 13-year wait for the title. For that, the home fans must stay patient. ​

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