Benzema’s absence doesn’t slow down Al-Ittihad’s AFC Champions League opener

Saudi Gazette report

JEDDAH — Despite the absence of their star French player Karim Benzema, Al-Ittihad made a remarkable and flawless start in the AFC Champions League, defeating their Uzbekistani guest, AGMK, with a clean 3-0 victory in the Group C competition.

The home team secured victory in a night that witnessed a remarkable crowd at Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Stadium in Jeddah, with an official attendance of approximately 13,000 fans.

Al-Ittihad didn’t exert much effort to overcome their Uzbekistani counterpart, as they only needed one half to score the three goals, with Haroun Kamara and the Brazilian Romarinho (scoring two goals) making the mark, although the team’s performance declined during the second half.

Al-Ittihad missed their French star Karim Benzema, who was absent from the match due to a minor muscle injury. Portuguese coach Nuno Santo chose not to take risks with him. Defender Luiz Felipe also sat on the bench due to his incomplete readiness but joined in the second half.

Goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Muaiouf made his debut for Al-Ittihad, replacing Brazilian Grohe, as the coach decided to utilize another foreign player.

Al-Ittihad didn’t give AGMK many opportunities, as they quickly opened the scoring in the 11th minute through Haroun Kamara, who capitalized on a rebound from Mohanad Al-Shanqiti’s shot that the Uzbekistani goalkeeper initially saved.

The ball returned to the penalty area, where Moroccan Abdul Razzaq Hamdallah attempted to score but was unsuccessful, and Kamara struck it powerfully into the net.

It took Al-Ittihad only three minutes to revisit the Uzbekistani net, this time through Brazilian Romarinho, who confidently placed the ball into AGMK’s goal.

Al-Ittihad was awarded a penalty in favor of Moroccan Abdul Razzaq Hamdallah, leading the match referee to consult VAR. Brazilian Romarinho stepped up and slotted it into the net, concluding the first half with a 3-0 lead.

Hamdallah left the match due to an injury, and the team wasted numerous chances during the first half.

Al-Ittihad didn’t display a convincing performance in the second half, and their performance declined after securing a significant lead in the first half.

In the same group’s second match, Sepahan Isfahan from Iran drew 2-2 against their Iraqi hosts, Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya.

Ali Jasim gave Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya the lead in the 26th minute, but just four minutes later, Mohammad Qorbani equalized for Sepahan Isfahan.

In the second half, Mohammad Qorbani scored his second goal and Sepahan’s second in the 67th minute, while Ali Jasim netted his second for Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya just three minutes before the end.

Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (

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