Having already seen his team overcome the odds on three occasions to reach the quarter-finals of this year’s AFC Cup, Arema Indonesia coach Dejan Antonic is not ready to write off their hopes of further progression despite their seemingly hopeless position against Al Ettifaq of Saudi Arabia.
Arema must overcome a two-goal deficit at the Prince Mohammed Bin Fahad Stadium in Dammam on Tuesday after second-half goals by Yahya Al Shehri and substitute Zamil Al Sulim saw them go down 2-0 at home to the Saudi club in last week’s first leg.
But while it is appears to be a comfortable position for Al Ettifaq, who will have Polish coach Maciej Skorza in charge for the first time on Tuesday, Antonic insisted that Arema could still advance.
“We are looking forward to putting in a good performance and getting a good result,” said the Serbian. “Al Ettifaq may have a good chance of qualifying but it is not over yet as we still have a match to play and in football, nothing is impossible.
“We still hope that we can put in a good performance and may the better side win. We will play an open game and I am personally supporting my players to do their best tomorrow.”
Antonic may have been emboldened by his side’s earlier heroics in the competition. Despite only taking one point from their first four games in the group stage, they trounced Myanmar’s Ayeyawady United and Vietnam’s Navibank Saigon in the final two matches to reach the Round of 16, where they stunned Kitchee 2-0 in Hong Kong to go through to the last eight.
“We are used to playing under pressure and in front of large crowds so we will not be affected by the home supporters of Al Ettifaq who are a strong team and will be looking for a win in order to satisfy their fans.”