Kuala Lumpur: Back-to-back AFC Cup triumphs for Al Faisaly in 2005 and 2006 saw the Jordanian side become the tournament’s dominant force and they would return to the final once more in 2007.
For the first time since the inaugural edition in 2004, when Syria’s Al Jaish and Al Wahda faced off, the final saw two teams from the same country take to the field as Shabab Al Ordon stood in the way of a hat-trick of titles for Al Faisaly.
Shabab Al Ordon’s continental bow started with a 2-0 victory over Yemen’s Al Saqr in Group A before 1-0 and 2-0 wins over Oman’s Muscat Club and Nejmeh of Lebanon respectively saw the Amman side on maximum points after three games.
The second half of the group stage was not as strong for the Jordanians as an away defeat to Nejmeh followed by a 1-1 draw with Al Saqr in Yemen saw the Lebanese side move into top spot. And it took a 2-1 victory over Muscat in the final group game to see Shabab Al Ordon advance as the best-placed runners-up in the West.
The defending champions drew their tournament opener 0-0 with Turkmenistan’s Nebitci Balkanabat, but back-to-back victories over Oman’s Dhofar and Lebanon’s Al Ansar moved them to a familiar position at the top of the Group C standings.
Abdel Hadi Al Maharmeh's late goal grabbed a 1-1 draw in the return meeting with Al Ansar and a 2-0 victory over Balkanabat ensured top spot prior to a 1-0 reversal away to Dhofar.
The Jordanian outfits were then pitted against Singaporean opposition in the last eight with Shabab Al Ordon tasked with Singapore Armed Forces and Al Faisaly up against Tampines Rovers.
Shabab Al Ordon enjoyed the perfect first leg by seeing off the Singapore side 5-0 in Amman, although complacency threatened to get the better of them in the return leg before a 3-0 defeat saw them progress 5-3 on aggregate.
After playing prominent roles in the previous continental successes, Mo’ayyad Abu Kishek and Siraj Al Tall both netted as the two-time champions came from a goal down to win 2-1 away at Tampines.
The Singaporean team went two up inside 15 minutes in Amman as they threatened to derail Al Faisaly’s title defence, but Al Tall and Abu Kishek were again on the scoresheet as the hosts won 5-2 on the night and 7-3 on aggregate.
An all-Jordanian final?
Three Jordanian teams reached the last four with Shabab Al Ordon avoiding the local derby after being paired with Nejmeh, while Al Faisaly faced a repeat of their 2006 semi-final against Al Wehdat.
In their third meeting of the competition Shabab Al Ordon’s Odai Al Saify scored the only goal of the game early on as the Amman side defeated Nejmeh 1-0, before a scoreless draw in the second leg in Beirut secured them a place in the final at the first time of asking.
Once again, Al Tall was on the scoresheet for his side as Al Faisaly and Al Wehdat played out a 1-1 draw in their first leg at Amman International Stadium.
Some 17,000 spectators turned out for the return leg at the same venue and it was Hassouneh Al Sheikh (pictured above) who was the hero, scoring the decisive goal in a 2-1 victory.
For the third year in a row, Al Faisaly lined up for the tournament showpiece but, for the first time, they would have to overcome Jordanian opposition in the final to lift the title.
After a scoreless first half, Odai Al Saify (pictured above) netted the only goal of the game in the 52nd minute as Shabab Al Ordon, technically the away team, ran out 1-0 winners.
Haitham Al Shboul then cancelled out that away goal by striking early in the second leg to tie the contest at 1-1 on aggregate.
But Mustafa Shehdeh equalised on the stroke of half-time and, with no further goals, Al Faisaly’s reign as AFC Cup champions was ended as Shabab Al Ordon were crowned kings of the continent.
Photos: Lagardère Sports