On Saturday, Kuala Lumpur City FC and Al Seeb SC will play in the 18th and final AFC Football CupTM 2022.
Since the competition’s inception in 2004, there have been some spectacular finals, and the-AFC.com looks at five of them.
Al Jaish (SYR) vs. Al Wahda, 2004 (SYR)
The AFC Cup was founded in 2004 two years following the renaming of its older sister, the AFC Champions League, with tremendous enthusiasm among the 11 Member Associations featured in the inaugural edition as well as the larger Asian football fan community.
After winning their respective groups, two teams from the same city, Al Jaish and Al Wahda, both situated in Syria’s capital Damascus, advanced to the final event. Al Jaish advanced to the final by defeating East Bengal and Home United, while Al Wahda overcame Nejmeh SC and Geylang United.
With both legs taking place at the National Abbassyin Stadium, Al Jaish scored in the opening (away) leg in just three minutes by Zyad Chaabo. Feras Esmaeel then guaranteed they went into the interval with a two-goal lead, and despite a second-half recovery by Al Wahda, Amer Al Abtah’s penalty just before the hour mark clinched an important 3-2 away victory for Al Jaish.
On a gloomy and rainy November Friday night, Al Jaish drew closer to the title with a goalless stalemate at halftime.
With 18 minutes remaining in the second half, Nabil Al Shahmeh pounced on a missed goalkeeper save to sweep home the game-winning goal and cement Al Jaish’s place as the first-ever AFC Cup victors.
Muharraq Club (BHR) vs. Safa SC in 2008. (LIB)
Muharraq Club of Bahrain came within a whisker of being crowned AFC Cup winners in 2006, but faltered at the last hurdle, losing 5-4 on aggregate to incumbent champions Al Faisaly. Two years later, they were again in the hunt for the trophy, this time against Safa SC, Lebanon’s first-ever AFC Cup finalist.
Muharraq defeated Kedah Darul Aman and Al Nahda to reach the final, while Safa defeated Perak FC and Dempo to join them.
As the competition’s leading scorer with 13 goals into the final, Brazilian striker Rico put on a show to remember in the first leg of the final in Manama, scoring a hat-trick to go along with Mahmoud Abdulrahman’s brace as the Bahraini team surged to a 5-1 victory.
Safa, who were up against it at home, decided to go all out offensive, which made for a great exhibition of attacking football from both teams in Beirut.
After Ali Al Saadi scored from close range to give them the lead inside the first 15 minutes, the seemingly improbable comeback watched on.
Muharraq amulet Rico had other ideas, though, netting his 17th, 18th, and 19th goals of the competition in the space of 20 minutes. Safa quickly answered, scoring three goals in the space of 14 minutes to tie the game at four.
After scoring two braces in a row, Mahmoud Abdulrahman gave Muharraq an astounding 10-5 aggregate advantage to win the trophy.
Kuwait SC vs. FC Nasaf (UZB) in 2011. (KUW)
In the first seven editions, no club from outside West Asia had reached the AFC Cup final, but Uzbekistan’s FC Nasaf were desperate to alter that in 2011. The Qarshi-based club made their AFC Cup debut the previous year, reaching the Round of 16 before falling to Syria’s Al Karamah.
They returned with a bang the next year, finishing with the full 18 points and an AFC Cup record 30 goals, including 9-0 and 7-1 victories over Dempo and Al Tilal, respectively. Jordan’s Al Faisaly and Al Wehdat were knocked out by the Uzbeks in the quarterfinal stage, either side of a penalty-shootout triumph against Thailand’s Chonburi.
The 2009 winners, Kuwait SC, were waiting for them on the other side. They had previously triumphed against teams such as Qadsia SC, Muanthong United, and Arbil.
By the time 2011 rolled around, the championship only consisted of a single leg, and Nasaf was the venue for that particular competition. The game was close throughout, but neither team was able to find the back of the net until the 60-minute mark, when Nasaf’s Ilkhom Shomurodov scored on a rebound after finding himself in the perfect position.
The victory was sealed two minutes later by a magnificent Andrejs Perepotkins backheel, bringing Nasaf, Uzbekistan, and Central Asia their first AFC Cup trophy.
Kuwait SC (KUW) vs. Qadsia SC (2013) (KUW)
After suffering a heartbreaking loss to Nasaf in the 2011 AFC Cup final, Kuwait SC responded forcefully, winning the trophy the following year by defeating Arbil 4-0, and reaching the finals once more in 2013.
When Kuwait SC and Qadsia shared the seven Kuwaiti Premier League championships between 2005 and 2012, four went to Qadsia and three to Kuwait SC, the animosity between the two teams was at its height.
The two teams hit the field at the Friendship and Peace Stadium in Kazma with that history and rivalry adding to the intensity.
After rushing forward from the halfway line and firing a shot from 30 yards out, Brazilian playmaker Rogerinho scored one of the all-time great AFC Cup final goals, his seventh of the season, seven minutes into the second half. Goalkeeper Nawaf Al Khaldi was powerless to save it. He then assisted Tunisian attacker Issam Jemaa on his 13th AFC Cup 2013 goal, giving Kuwait SC their first-ever three-peat victory.
Air Force Club (IRQ) vs. Altyn Asyr, 2018. (TKM) at AFC Football Cup
Only Jordan’s Al Faisaly had two AFC Cup titles before Kuwait SC won their third, making them the favorites to match the Kuwaitis’ record. Only five years later, Iraq’s Air Force Club was not only on course to duplicate that achievement, but were one match away from achieving it three years in a row.
The Baghdad club, who had previously won the title in Doha and Hisor, had the opportunity to complete the historic hat trick at home, in Basra International Stadium, after having previously defeated JSW Bengaluru of India in the 2016 final and repeating the feat against Istiklol of Tajikistan in 2017.
Turkmenistan’s Altyn Asyr had previously participated in 2016 and 2017 but were eliminated in the group stage both times. However, in 2018, they won their group, defeated Bengaluru 5-2 on aggregate, and advanced to the final against the reigning champions after eliminating DPR Korea 4-2.
After scoring the winning goal two years prior, a defensive blunder 22 minutes in allowed Hammadi Ahmed to score in an AFC Cup final for a second time. In the 57th minute, 18-year-old Ibrahim Bayesh headed Sameh Saeed’s corner kick into the goal to secure the victory and give the Iraqi club a third AFC Cup trophy.
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