Iraqi captain Younis Mahmoud finally made his return to club football in his long awaited bow for Arbil but was unable to help his side avoid a third consecutive defeat in AFC Cup tie despite scoring a double on his debut against FC Ahal of Turkmenistan at the Saoud Bin Abdulrahman Stadium in Doha.
The striker, who last played a club game for Saudi side Al-Ahly Jeddah on November 28, 2013 – (that’s 1 year, 4 months and 18 days, if anyone is counting), opened the scoring after 40 minutes when Loay Salah got down the left wing and delivered the ball onto the head of Arbil’s No.10.
Younis, who has played just 60 minutes of football after the Asian Cup, instinctively guided the ball to the right of the Ahal goalkeeper Nikita Gorbunov for his first goal for the club. His last competitive club goal came 1 years, 6 months and 5 days ago (or approx. 13,248 hours).
Then 66 seconds into the second half, Zafar Babajanov equalised from a corner after a combination of poor defending and some clumsy goalkeeping allowed FC Ahal’s captain to tap the ball into the empty net, but the man for the big moment Younis restored the lead for the Yellow Citadel after he was fouled in the box by Suleyman Orazov. Jordanian referee Adham Makhadeh showed no hesitation and instantly pointed to the spot after the late challenge from the FC Ahal midfielder.
Younis stepped up and coolly dispatched his trademark Panenka, chipping the ball to the left of the goalkeeper, who had gone the other way, to give Arbil a 2-1 lead after 64 minutes.
Then in a space of only one minute and 53 seconds FC Ahal’s substitute forward Mamedaly Karadanov, who had come on after 68 minutes for Damar Batyrov, turned the game around for the Turkmen club after taking advantage of some generous defending and hapless goalkeeping from Arbil to completely turn the game, with goals on 72 and 74 minutes.
The defeat leaves Ayoub Odisho’s men rooted to the bottom of Group C with 3 points after four matches, 4 points behind leaders FC Istiklol and Al-Qaddisiya, with only two games remaining. Last year’s AFC Cup finalists, who have faced financial problems since the start of the season after austerity measures in the region, have an uphill struggle to qualify for the knock-out stages