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Riffa: Ismail Abdullatif’s incisive wing play and unpredictability delivered Al Muharraq yet another win in the group stages of the 2017 AFC Cup as the former champions from Bahrain set their sights on another run deep into the competition.

While it was Doris Fuakuputu (pictured left) who scored the only goal of the game as Al Muharraq defeated Saham of Oman, it was the performance of Abdullatif (pictured right) that ensured the home side’s dominance at Bahrain National Stadium.

Al Muharraq now sit at the summit of Group C, one point ahead of Jordan’s Al Wehdat with just one game remaining, and it was an attacking display from Robert Jaspert’s team – and Abdullatif in particular – that ensures they are favourites to advance to the next phase of the competition.

Abdullatif’s Flexibility Pays Dividends

Abdullatif started the game on the left of Al Muharraq’a attacking trident, but the pattern of his performance became clear not long after kick off when he switched with Gregory Nelson to the right side of Fuakumputu, leaving the Saham defence perplexed.

It was Abdullatif’s direct running that caused the greatest damage, however, the 30-year-old charging down the left to send in the low cross from which Fuakumputu scored the game’s only goal in the 37th minute.

But otherwise he was busy throughout his 68 minutes on the field, regularly alternating wings to keep the visiting defence guessing.

Al Muharraq’s Dual Pronged Approach

Abdullatif was not Al Muharraq’s only attacking threat, and it was his partnership with Nelson on the other flank that caused so many problems for Saham.

Indeed, it was Nelson who was the busier of the two as he made more attempts to cross the ball than Abdullatif – six to Abdullatif’s two – with five of those unsuccessful.

But it was Abdullatif who made the difference, setting up the only goal of the game before being substituted in the 68th minute as he provided the game’s only assist with both players also managing a shot on target each.

Abdo's superiority in midfield

While Abdullatif and Nelson kept the Saham defence pinned back, it was central midfielder Abdullah Abdo whose quality on the ball allowed Al Muharraq to keep the pressure on their opponents.

The diminutive Bahrain international made 44 passes with a completion rate of almost 82 percent, with his success rate inside the Saham half at close to 79 percent.

His performance allowed Al Muharraq to keep circulating the ball and maintain possession – which the home side dominated 56.2 percent to 43.8 percent over the 90 minutes -  while the style of the Bahraini side’s play also allowed full backs Jamal Rashed and Mohamed Al Banna to move forward and bring an added attacking element to a performance that was worthy of the three points.

Photo: Lagardère Sports

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