Hammadi Ahmed
File photo of Air Force Club striker Hammadi Ahmad (L) Reuters

Air Force Club coach Basim Qasim heaped praise on his side's ability to see off stiff challenges after their 2016 AFC Cup semi-final win over Al Alhed on Tuesday.

The Iraqi side, after conceding an away goal in the semi-final first leg in September, overcame the odds to progress to the final of the continental competition. Despite conceding the first goal as well on Tuesday, Qasim's side buckled up and fought hard till the final whistle to gift themselves a chance at making glory.

Qasim had rued missing the tournament's top-scorer Hammadi Ahmad in the first leg. However, the Iraqi international showed his class on his return at the Sports City Stadium to score the crucial equaliser and also maintain his tournament record of scoring in every appearance.

Ahed went into the break with a 2-1 lead after Hassan Chaito scored the second for them. In the second half though, they lost composure and conceded two, which included an own goal from Nour Mansour.

While conceding that he believed the match had no clear favourites, Qasim lauded the showing of his team, which he feels has showcased the strength of the Iraqi side.

"We proved that we are a strong team and we managed to get an important victory against a strong side who have had an excellent performance in this competition," Qasim was quoted as saying by the AFC Cup's official website.

"We had a big will to win, especially in the final third of the match, and we played with five players in the frontline.

"The match was a very open one for the two teams and although we conceded a goal from a penalty, we pulled things together."

On the other hand, Ahed head coach Robert Jaspert lamented the defensive mistakes his team came up with on the big night. He added that Tuesday's result was not a fair reflection of his the Lebanese club's performance in the ongoing tournament.

Notably, Ahed maintained a perfect home record in the tournament winning five consecutive matches before going down to their Tuesday's opponents.

"Our defensive mistakes helped our opponents to score and we don't deserve this result taking into consideration our run in the competition," Jaspert said.

"After the equaliser, everything was lost and that is why we had to go forward and try to score and made some attacking changes."