Sports City Stadium, Beirut
15th March, 2011 – 7:30 PM IST

When Armando Colaco and Dempo Sports Club set their sights on something they more than achieve it. When the Dempo chief coach stated at the beginning of the season that his team is targeting Asian glory this year you could see the spark and swagger in his eyes and how badly he wants to go as far as possible in his quest for continental glory. And on Tuesday as they try to decode step two of the Asian puzzle he knows that this game could determine whether his team has the chance of progressing to the knockout phase for the third consecutive time. In their first AFC Cup match of the season at the Shivaji Chattrapati Sports Complex at Balewadi, Dempo Sports Club got the better of Al Tilal of Yemen 2-1 with goals from their foreign duo of Roberto Mendes Da Silva and Ranti Martins giving them all three points. Dempo played a gem of a game that night with Samir Naik putting in “an out of this world” cross from the right- after burning the track down with scorching pace- for Beto to head in. Ranti made it 2-0 after a defensive mistake from Al Tilal’s defence. Climax and Kalu anchored well in midfield while Clifford was his usual pacy self on the left of midfield.

But the result of this game may have a big say on who progresses to the next round. Already Nasaf of Uzbekistan looks the team to beat after putting in three goals past Al Ansar at home and are favourites to top the group. With Al Tilal of Yemen not the strongest of sides it could come down to Dempo and Al Ansar for the remaining one qualifying slot. And if Dempo could manage at least a point from this game and win their return leg at home it could all but ensure qualification for the next phase.

Coach Colaco is his cautious self as his team squares up to face the Lebanese. “It’s a demanding schedule. This travel and pressure of winning all the time is not doing the team any good” – he said at the pre match conference. “Lebanon is a difficult venue. We have played there in the past and have always encountered stiff opposition”. He also gave due credit to his opposition and praised them for the way they played in their opening game. “They lost their opening match 3-0 but I don’t discount them. In fact they matched their rivals, Nasaf of Uzbekistan, in the first half an hour but were unlucky to concede a late goal that changed the complexion of the match. In the second period a red card killed the game” added the longest serving coach of Dempo.

Team News and Tactical Brief:

Dempo could be without their inspirational right back Samir Naik. The India international left the field midway through the second half of their I-League game against Mohun Bagan with what looked like a knee injury. He went straight to the bench and had an ice pack on his knee after receiving a knock on the field. If unfit his place will most likely be taken by Valeriano Rebello on the right. Dempo have the luxury of playing all their foreigners and once again the coach will play Iranian Rouhollah Semienia at left back. The rest of the team could remain unchanged with Mahesh Gawli and Domnic Noronha playing at the centre of defence. Dempo are on a six match winning run and will be high on confidence as they seek to unlock the Lebanese defence. The Dempo coach was unhappy with the performance of his team against Al Tilal especially in the second half but he will take a repeat performance from his boys at the Sports City Stadium in Beirut.

Al Ansar of Lebanon have everything to play for. After their 0-3 drubbing at the hands of Nasaf they desperately need to avoid defeat to stay in touch of the top two spots. “It’s a must-win match for us or else we might have to say goodbye to the tournament. It’s a home match for us and we must take three points from this game,” said coach Jamal Taha, whose team beat Al Islah 3-2 in their previous game in the domestic league and are on a five match unbeaten run in their domestic league and are just four points off the summit.

“I saw Dempo play against Al Sadd (in the AFC Champions League play-off) and have taken note of both their strong and weak points. Their strong point, obviously, is their foreign players who have been with them for a long time. I know this because I played Dempo three years ago and managed only a draw at home” said the coach referring to the 1-1 draw against Dempo in 2008, the year Dempo reached the semi finals. Ranti Martins in that game had given Dempo the lead in the 27th minute but Mohammad Hammoud equalized late in the 84th minute to earn them a draw. Al Ansar have five players who played that day and they will be hoping to go one better against the Indians who incidentally have ten of the eleven players that started the match that day.

“I wouldn’t discuss the weak points but we have a plan in place to capitalise on them. We lost the first game in the tournament so the Dempo clash becomes crucial. It’s a crucial match for us and nothing less than full points will do” added the Al Ansar coach.

Al Ansar will have their defensive midfielder Rabih Attaya missing after receiving marching orders for his double booking in their previous game. They have two Brazilians in their squad- Ramos Junior Sebastiao who plays in defence and their long serving striker Edson Luis Nascimento who will partner Ali Nasseredine in attack. They also have Lebanese international Mohammad Baker Mohammad Younes who has played against India in the Nehru Cup and a couple of friendlies. Its over to Beirut to decide the how things shape up in Group A.

TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch Out For:

Roberto Mendes da Silva (Beto):

The Brazilian magician is in supreme form. He is the creative force behind this Dempo team. His vision of the game and the defense splitting passes could spell disaster for any opponent defenders. He is also a master dead ball specialist and lethal in front of the goal. Watch out for Beto to make a positive impact in Dempo’s bid to notch up a winning result against Al-Ansar.

TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION:

Al-Ansar 1-1 Dempo SC