Date: Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Timing: 15:45 Local Time (GMT+4).
Venue: Zgharta-Mirdachiyye Stadium, Zgharta, Lebanon.
Lebanon’s first representative is their relegation-battling cup winners who are staying up due to their influx of foreign players and staff, Salam Zgharta. They go up against Tajikistani team Khayr Vahdat, who battled through the first round after a 1-0 against Bangladesh’s Sheikh Russel – winners of the 2014 AFC President’s Cup Group Stage.
Found in 1971, Salam Zgharta have had little history to be proud of. Besides a Cup win in 1987, they have been languishing in the lower divisions of Lebanon for years. In 2014, the whole landscape changed for the club as they were promoted to the Premier division in Lebanon, and cruised to their second Cup win in the same year.
22 points in 22 games saw them escape relegation by 4 points, while a 1-0 Cup win against Tripoli in the Final allowed them to book a place in the AFC Cup Play-offs next season.
In the same position as last year, 10th, and no cup run to speak of – Salam are in a dire situation right now. A 2-1 loss to Ansar that saw them concede a penalty in the dying minutes gave them hope coming into this game… along with a 5-4 loss to relegation battlers Nabi Chit, after they went 4-0 down in 27 minutes (subsequently coming back to 4-4, before conceding one minute later to lose 5-4). Salam are showing great character but the results have been disastrous.
Peter Meindertesma was the assistant manager of Theo Bucker during his overachieving stint with the Lebanese National team, and as Bucker left to manage Al-Nejmeh (ironically, the other representative of Lebanon in the AFC Cup) Peter signed a contract with Salam. Both of these men, working together only 2 years ago, are looking to help Lebanon’s bid for the AFC Champions League to improve.
Lucas Galan: with a recent goal against league leaders Al-Ansar and a hat trick against Nabi Chit, all of Lebanon is expecting a good game from the Argentinian as he will look to be the man to take Salam into the Group Stages for the first time. An eye for goal and a bizarre hairstyle, it is likely that Galan will seize the spotlight.