Karim Benzema’s Al Ittihad Struggles Continue in Asian Champions League Loss

Karim Benzema’s Al Ittihad suffered their first defeat in this season’s Asian Champions League when they were beaten 2-0 by Air Force Club in Iraq on Monday, placing additional pressure on manager Nuno Espirito Santo, The current Saudi Arabian champions, who are struggling in the Saudi Pro League, entered the match in Erbil with a flawless record in Group C after defeating Air Force Club 1-0 in Jeddah last month, However, goals from Ali Jasim and Mohannad Abdulraheem at the Franso Hariri Stadium brought the hosts within two points of the group leaders after four matches, Ittihad, who were consecutively crowned Asian champions in 2004 and 2005, fell behind to the dominant home side just before halftime when Jasim capitalized on Abdulraheem’s cut-back.

Previously, Jasim had hit the base of the post with a shot, and his volley was also tipped over the Ittihad crossbar by Saudi goalkeeper Abdullah Al Maayouf, Ittihad’s situation deteriorated further early in the second half when Abdulraheem volleyed in from Ibrahim Bayesh’s low cross at close range, Although performing well in Asia, Ittihad has been struggling in the Saudi Pro League, failing to secure a win in their last five matches and now slipping to sixth place after 12 rounds, Speculation regarding manager Nuno’s potential departure from the club has gained traction, The former Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur manager led Ittihad to their first Saudi league title in 14 years during the previous season.

In Group D, four-time winners Al Hilal extended their unbeaten record with a 2-0 victory against Mumbai City in India, securing their advancement to the knockout stages, Winger Michael opened the scoring just after the hour mark at the DY Patil Stadium, while Aleksandar Mitrovic doubled the visitors’ advantage in the 85th minute, Mumbai City, who suffered a 6-0 defeat in the previous meeting, had defender Mehtab Singh sent off nine minutes into the second half for a second bookable offense, Hilal, runners-up in the 2022 edition, currently top the group level on points with Uzbekistan’s Navbahor, who emerged as 3-1 winners against Iranian debutants Nassaji Mazandaran.

UAE club Sharjah had their back-to-back Group B victories denied by Uzbekistan’s Nasaf when the hosts equalized through a Mateus goal nine minutes from time, resulting in a 1-1 draw, Jambul Jigauri missed a penalty in the eighth minute for the home side in Qarshi, while Sharjah goalkeeper Adel Al Hosani and Nasaf defender Alibek Davronov were both sent off late in the match, Nevertheless, Sharjah leads the standings with eight points, with Nasaf remaining in second place, The group stage, which reverted to a home-and-away format for the first time since early 2020, will continue until mid-December, The top 10 pool winners and the six best second-placed teams will advance to the knockout rounds, commencing in February, The final will be held in May, consisting of two legs.

Al Ittihad’s loss to Air Force Club in the Asian Champions League puts pressure on manager Nuno Espirito Santo, Despite their success in Asia, the team has been struggling in the Saudi Pro League, which raises speculation about Nuno’s future at the club, Meanwhile, Al Hilal remains unbeaten and advances to the knockout stages, The group stage will continue until mid-December, with the final taking place in May.

Ahmed Asmar

Hello, I'm Ahmed Al-Asmar, a sports writer specializing in sports news. Over the years, I have dedicated myself to studying and following various sports, gaining valuable expertise in analyzing and presenting sporting events to readers in a clear and engaging manner.
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