Leonardo Jardim hails Shabab Al Ahli character as key to Adnoc Pro League title glory

Dubai side secured an eighth UAE championship, and first since their 2017 merger, with one round to spare

Shabab Al Ahli players and fans celebrate winning the Adnoc Pro League. photo: PLC
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Leonardo Jardim has attributed Shabab Al Ahli’s Adnoc Pro League title success to his players’ steadfast commitment to the cause.

The Dubai side sealed the 2022/23 championship on Sunday night with one round to spare, when they came from behind to win 2-1 at Baniyas.

The victory meant Jardim's side, top by three points going into the final set of fixtures, could not be usurped at the summit given their superior head-to-head record with second-placed Al Ain and Al Wahda in third.

The title triumph is credited as the club’s eighth in all, but first since the 2017 merger with Al Shabab and Dubai CSC. They last lifted the top-flight trophy in 2016, as Al Ahli.

Speaking on Sunday after wrapping up the title race, Jardim said: “There was strong competition with Al Ain, Sharjah and Al Wahda. But we achieved the goal that we set for ourselves, and I thank this group of players because they are the most prominent factor behind this title with their diligence and determination.

“Shabab Al Ahli must be respected, as there is only one champion, and this team is champion because we worked hard throughout the season and refused to surrender until the end.”

Appointed last June, Jardim’s debut league campaign in the UAE got off to an inauspicious start. Shabab Al Ahli lost their opening match to Sharjah – it sparked a run of two wins from five games – but after moving top in January did not relinquish their position.

The Rashid Stadium side last tasted defeat in league in December, against Baniyas, and are now unbeaten in 13 top-flight matches.

Jardim, who guided Monaco to the league title in France in 2017 while he also led Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal to the 2021 Asian Champions League crown, said: “We focused on ourselves, and we wanted to achieve results. We were always positive before looking at our competitors, so we got what we deserved.”

Updated: May 08, 2023, 2:49 PM