Persipura Jayapura face an uphill task in their bid to progress to the AFC Cup final after being beaten 4-2 by Al Qadsia in the first leg of their semi-final clash.
It was Al Qadsia, runners-up in 2010 and last year, who drew first blood at the Al Kuwait Sports Club Stadium in the 11th minute after Danijel Subotic met Saif Al Hashan’s left-wing cross with a deft header into the bottom corner.
However, the visitors equalised ten minutes later following a moment of brilliance from Titus Bonai as he skipped inside Abdullahi Shehu just inside the box, before bending a sublime effort past Nawaf Al Khaldi’s despairing dive.
Remarkably, Persipura then took the lead a minute after the half-hour mark when Imanuel Wanggai played an incisive pass to find Boaz Solossa, who took the ball into his stride before clinically slotting into the back of the net.
Still, the Kuwaiti outfit showed no signs of being deterred despite falling behind and duly pulled level in the 64th minute; Al Hashan producing a brilliant bit of skill to escape from Yohanis Tjoe and keeping his cool to fire past Yoo Jae-hoon.
Just a minute later, Al Qadsia found themselves back in front after Bader Al Mutawa raced onto a searching ball from the back before lashing a powerful first-time effort into the far corner.
And 13 minutes from time, they went on to seal the victory when Subotic received a layoff by Al Hashan and expertly placed a 20-yard strike into the bottom corner.
Nonetheless, Persipura can still take heart from the fact that they overturned a one-goal deficit to beat last season’s champions Kuwait SC 8-4 on aggregate in the quarter-finals, and can head into the second leg at the Mandala Stadium on September 30 with plenty of optimism.
In Tuesday’s other last-four clash, Hong Kong First Division champions Kitchee came from behind to hold Iraq’s Erbil to a 1-1 draw at the Prince Mohammed Stadium in Jordan.
Following a goalless first half, Erbil took the lead in the 59th minute when Nabeel Sabah’s low cross took a deflection and landed fortuitously at the feet of Luay Salah, who was left with the simplest of tap-ins from a yard out.
But eight minutes after the hour mark, the visitors were awarded a penalty after Ali Faez had handled a cross inside the box, paving the way for Juan Belencoso to equalise from 12 yards and force the draw.
Tuesday’s AFC Cup Semi-final First Leg Results
Erbil 1-1 Kitchee
Al Qadsia 4-2 Persipura Jayapura