(MENAFN- Qatar News Agency) A stunning three-goal spree in the space of five minutes was enough to give Real Madrid a deserved victory over Al Ahli in the first game of Day 4 at Al Kass 2016. However, the classy Spaniards did not have things their all own way as their plucky opponents fought to the end.
The Saudi side had completed their heroic 3-0 win over reigning champions PSG just 22 hours earlier, so fatigue was certainly a factor going into this game. In contrast, Real had taken advantage of a full two days' rest since their four-goal romp against the same opponents.
Saudi keeper Bakr Eissa had put in a Man-of-the-Match performance to keep the Parisians at bay the previous evening, and with this game just five minutes old he was called into action once again, when a tempting cross from the right was met with a firm header by Joaquin Martinez, and tipped over by the star shot-stopper.
However, Eissa stood no chance against the onslaught that began shortly after, as Real went through the gears in a devastating five-minute spell that left Al Ahli floundering on the ropes. First, Francisco Torres sprinted down the left wing and, although his initial cross was cut out, the ball was not cleared. The Madrid full back gladly accepted a second invitation, and picked out Pedro Delgado near the penalty spot, whose first-time, side-footed shot nestled in the bottom right corner.
Within a minute, Torres and Delgado repeated their double act, combining to lethal effect to increase Real's lead. The left back once again escaped down the flank and fired a tempting cross into the area, met by the Madrid number 19 with a sweet volley to make it 2-0.
With 15 minutes gone, things got even worse for Al Ahli, after Real were awarded a free kick in a central position just outside the area. Captain Adrian de la Barquilla stepped up and planted an exquisite curling effort into the top right corner, leaving Eissa with no chance.
With just 25 minutes on the clock, Al Ahli manager Hassan Al Ghamdi made a double substitution € an unusual move to make so early in the game, but one that vividly illustrated the Saudis' plight.
Right back Abdulrahman Al Arashi, who had been given a torrid time by Torres, was replaced by Yasser Ibrahim, while striker Hani Al Sibyani came on for midfielder Badar Al Johani as Al Ghamdi looked to bolster his side's attacking options.
Against PSG the Saudis had utilised the long ball to great effect, cutting out the crowded midfield to set their rapid attackers free on goal. This time round, however, on the rare occasions when they were able to attempt this tactic, the Real backline was quick to repel any danger.
Indeed, the game was 38 minutes old before Al Ahli mustered a shot on target, with Al Sibyani firing a dangerous free kick in from distance that keeper Adrian Fernandez had to be at his best to touch over.
Hat-trick hero Adrian Roman had been the star performer in Real's 4-0 demolition of PSG, but against Al Ahli he had shown only flashes of his undoubted talent, perhaps hindered after taking a heavy knock on the half hour. The attacking midfielder was withdrawn at half time, replaced by Bilal Guennolin.
The switch did little to alter the balance of play however and, with both sides already assured of a place in the knockout stage, the pace dropped somewhat in the second period. Al Ahli continued to have difficulty making headway against a disciplined Real defence, while Los Blancos were content to spray the ball around, retaining possession and patiently probing for openings. However, the Saudi backline also showed commendable steel, diligently snuffing out a series of Madrid chances.
And, with eight minutes remaining, Al Ahli managed a consolation strike. Ibrahim Al Sahhari ran from deep to spring the offside trap and latch on to a measured ball through the middle. With only keeper Fernandez to beat, the striker made no mistake, reducing the deficit to two. The goal was a deserved reward for the Saudis' dogged perseverance, when lesser sides would have crumbled.
Indeed, with the exception of a five-minute period early in the first half, The Royals had largely managed to contain the constant threat of their Spanish counterparts. Real, meanwhile, move imperiously on, and at this stage they look to have the necessary quality throughout their line-up to defeat all-comers and claim the Al Kass crown.
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