Benzema Misfires As Al Ittihad Suffer First Defeat In Asian Champions League
Karim Benzema’s Al Ittihad suffered a 2-0 defeat to Air Force Club of Iraq Monday night to record their first defeat in this season’s Asian Champions League, piling pressure on manager Nuno Espirito Santo following performance at home.
The Saudi Arabian champions, struggling in the Saudi Pro League, went into the match in Erbil boasting a 100 percent record in Group C after defeating Air Force Club 1-0 in Jeddah last month. But, goals from Ali Jasim and Mohannad Abdulraheem pulled the hosts to within two points of the group leaders after four matches.
Back-to-back Asian champions in 2004 and 2005, Ittihad fell behind to the dominant home side one minute before half-time, when Jasim fired home Abdulraheem’s cut-back.
Jasim had earlier hit the base of the post with a shot, while he also had a volley tipped over the Ittihad crossbar by Saudi goalkeeper Abdullah Al Maayouf.
Things went from bad to worse for the Saudi Pro League side not long into the second half, with Abdulraheem sending in a close-range volley from Ibrahim Bayesh’s low cross.
Although on form in Asia, Ittihad has been out of sorts in the Saudi Pro League. They have not won in five matches to slip to sixth after 12 rounds, with speculation manager Nuno could be on his way out of the club.
Meanwhile, in Group D, four-time winner Al Hilal maintained their unbeaten record with a 2-0 win against Mumbai City in India and advanced to the knockout stages.
Winger Michael opened the scoring just after the hour at the DY Patil Stadium before Aleksandar Mitrovic doubled the visitors’ advantage in the 85th minute.
Mumbai City, who lost the corresponding fixture last month 6-0, had defender Mehtab Singh sent off nine minutes into the second half for a second bookable offence.