January 22, 2018


Aspire Football Dreams made a comfortable debut at Al Kass 2018, running out 2-0 winners against Fenerbahce of Turkey. The scoreline did not flatter AFD, who controlled proceedings throughout and could have won by a far greater margin.

The teams appeared evenly matched in the opening exchanges, content to familiarise themselves with the opposition and work patiently to fashion openings.

Despite their 6-2 loss to Real Madrid 24 hours previously, Fenerbahce continued to show plenty of determination, with captain Emre Nasuh again the fulcrum of the Turks’ best football.

But it was AFD who settled first, enjoying a majority of possession and battling to retrieve the ball at every opportunity. They went close from a succession of early corners, and had a decent penalty claim turned down on 13 minutes.

Three minutes later, they should have gone ahead when Jumai Jallow pounced on a rebound but fired wide from close range, with only keeper Umut Tunc to beat.

AFD were now clearly on top, and almost went in front in the 27th minute when Djakaria Barro dragged his shot narrowly wide. Moments later and Fenerbache could have scored, right-winger Batuhan Ekinci unlucky to see his cross-shot beat the keeper but narrowly drift wide of the far post.

The deadlock was finally broken with the game’s next attack, when AFD’s Sibiry Keita expertly controlled the ball inside the area and fired home past a helpless Tunc.

Jallow, cutting in from the right, missed a couple of presentable chances in quick succession as Aspire Football Dreams sought to press home their advantage, but Fenerbahce’s defence remained resolute to keep the score at 1-0 heading into half time.

However, their resistance was broken soon after the restart, when Christian Otabil connected with a low cross from the right to double AFD’s advantage.

By now, Fenerbahce were struggling to escape from their own half, their midfielders torn between the need to defend and a desire to attack, and their forward line almost devoid of supply lines as a result.

In an attempt to remedy this impasse, Nasuh dropped back into central midfield and, on the hour mark, they managed to force a corner on the right, only for Cenk Alptekin’s commanding header to be blocked. Fenerbahce skipper Nasuh was withdrawn with a quarter of the game remaining, as AFD’s dominance resumed.

Quicker to the loose ball, strong in the tackle, and accurate with their passing, it was only in front of the goal where the killer instinct was lacking, as several chances went begging.

As the second half wore on, Fenerbahce began to enjoy a greater share of possession, but goalscoring chances remained few and far between. In a rare foray forward, Birkan Aktas hit a powerful strike from distance on 72 minutes, but Aspire Football Dream keeper Appiah Kubi comfortably gathered the effort as his side remained in control.

Aspire Football Dreams showed enough in this game to demonstrate that they have the potential to advance far into Al Kass 2018. They face Real Madrid next, however, and may need to show their clinical side in front of goal if they are to prevail.