Al Ain coach Dalic not about to celebrate despite Champions League victory over Al Ittihad

Garden City side in good shape to advance to last four after keeping clean sheet

Al Ain midfielder Omar Abdulrahman, right, dribbles past Fahad Al Muwallad of Al Ittihad during their Asian Champions League quarter-final first leg match on August 19, 2014, at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain. Karim Sahib / AFP
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AL AIN // Zlatko Dalic saluted the performance of his Al Ain players in their 2-0 win over Al Ittihad last night, but the Croatian has urged his team to forget about this game and focus on the second leg of the Asian Champions League quarter-final.

Al Ain will carry a two-goal advantage to Jeddah on August 26 after second-half goals from Ismail Ahmed and Asamoah Gyan saw the hosts take the honours in the home tie. If Al Ain, the 2003 champions, protect that lead next Tuesday they will be making their first appearance in the last four of the Champions League since finishing runners-up to Ittihad in 2005.

Dalic has warned his players the task ahead is difficult and urged them to redouble their efforts.

“It will not be easy in Jeddah and I know that,” said the Al Ain manager, who spent two seasons at Al Hilal in Saudi Arabia before coming to the UAE. “It is a big, big team.

"So we need to forget about this result and start preparing for the next game. Yes, we have a 2-0 result with us and I congratulate my players for an excellent game, but we have not achieved anything yet. We have to make sure we play a good game in Jeddah as well."

Taking on a team they had failed to beat in the tournament’s group stages after a 1-1 at home and a 2-1 defeat in Jeddah, Al Ain began briskly, showing no match rust.

It was a torrid pace, with Asamoah Gyan, Omar Abdulrahman, the returning Jires Kembo Ekoko and new recruit Miroslav Stoch keeping the Ittihad defence on edge.

Abdulrahman got the proceedings off with a deft left footer to the far corner in the second minute, but the Ittihad goalkeeper Fawaz Al Qarni had it covered. Two minutes later, Stoch floated into the box and Gyan came agonisingly close to flicking it in. The Ghanaian striker then received another great delivery from Stoch in the 14th minute, but his header went straight into the hands of the goalkeeper. Gyan was unlucky not to get a penalty early in the second half, but his grief did not last for long as Ismail Ahmed dragged home Ekoko’s cross into the back of the net on 48 minutes.

Gyan then doubled the tally in the 61st minute, tapping down Abdulrahman’s perfectly weighted ball and placing it past Al Qarni.

“It was an amazing, amazing pass for Gyan,” Dalic said. “I believe only two or three players in the world can make a pass with such perfection. So Omar is a player who can always make something special.”

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