AL AIN // Football managers dream of great starts to a new season and for the Al Ain coach Winfried Schaefer that dream came true when his players set the perfect launch pad to the inaugural Pro League. The nine-times league champions thrashed Sharjah 4-0 on the opening night of the competition at the Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium on Friday to suggest that they are in the mood to make amends for the previous disappointments.
Ain won a record three consecutive league titles from 2001-2004 but have found the going tough in the last four years. A revival seems on the horizon, however, under Schaefer. Yet the German, who led Dubai's Al Ahli to the 2005-2006 league title, is under no illusion that one match can stir such emotions. "Indeed we had an excellent game and achieved a great result," said Schaefer. "It was a most wonderful start but we must not get carried away. We have a long, long way to go. However, we can look forward with optimism."
The Brazilian Andre Diaz created a piece of history by becoming the first player to score in the nw Pro League when he tapped in a corner from inside a crowded goalmouth in the second minute and then Jorge Valdivia - known as "the magician" - scored with a spectacular free kick to double the lead on the stroke of half-time. Schaefer was all praise for his players, particularly the Chile international Valdivia. "He had a good first game and proved his mettle with that goal," Schaefer said: "He's got a reputation and he seems to be living by it. If he can take his game further, which he will as he adapts himself to the conditions here, he can be a danger to any team."
The Moroccan international Soufiane Alloudi and Salem Abdulla added second-half penalties to complete the rout. Sharjah coach Youssef al Zawawi was naturally downcast. He said: "We failed to take our chances but you can't just point the finger at that. Our overall play was disappointing. But we can't lose heart from one game." Elsewhere, the seven-time league champions Al Wasl defeated Ajman 1-0 thanks to a 76th minute goal from Eissa Ali while Al Dhafra beate Al Khaleej 3-1. @Email:email@example.com