Another Asian Champions League blow for Al Jazira after defeat to Tractor Sazi in Abu Dhabi
ABU DHABI // Two matches in and Al Jazira’s Asian Champions League hopes already appear to hang in the balance.
Two Group C assignments in a week, two defeats to Iran’s Tractor Sazi, two results that their performances richly deserved.
After last week’s 4-0 dismantling in Tabriz, Jazira turned hosts on Wednesday at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium and barely turned up.
Bakhitar Rahmani’s first-half goal sealed it, a fine control-and-finish that came about after some slack play from Jazira.
Tractor took the spoils.
Jazira received another blow.
After a recent run of four successive victories with new coach Henk ten Cate in charge, the previously out-of-form capital club seem to have reverted to type.
Ten Cate, though, viewed it very differently.
“I’m proud of my team. I think we played our best game so far and I thought we deserved a little more,” the Dutchman said. “I think a draw would have been fairer, especially in the second half when we were on top of them. We didn’t give away hardly any chances, they scored their only one.
“But I’m proud of the team, the way they played, the way they performed, especially the young players. I’m disappointed with the result, of course, but not with the way we played.”
Yet Jazira really should have been better.
Against the seventh best-placed side in the Iranian top flight, they struggled in possession and out of it, never really troubling Tractor until they had to chase the game late on.
Ali Mabkhout had set the tone right at the onset, skewing wide his shot in the opening five minutes.
From there, Jazira did little but frustrate their coach and supporters.
Angel Lafita looked to be carrying a knock and did not make it to half-time. Mabkhout did not return for the second 45 minutes. Thiago Neves was substituted on the hour.
Three of Jazira’s big hitters lending little to the cause.
If there is any cause for optimism, however, it is that Jazira have to improve.
They simply cannot get any worse.
Lying bottom of Group C – although there remain 12 points to play for – eighth in the Arabian Gulf League and with a President’s Cup quarter-final to come, there is much work to be done.
Ten Cate still harbours hope.
“I remember when I was coach of Panathinaikos, starting the first three games with one point,” he said.
“But still finished top of the group with Inter Milan and Werder Bremen.
“So everything is possible.
“Our problem is time, and how much rest we get because until March 15 we play Al Ain, Al Nasr and Al Hilal – three top games. It’s not easy.
“We’re still in three competitions, but we have to fight to stay in the Arabian Gulf League.
“That is so, so important for this club.”
Al Ain remain winless in Group D
El Jaish completed an Asian Champions League Group D double over Al Ain with a 2-1 win at the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha on Wednesday night.
The repeat scoreline from last week’s match leaves Al Ain bottom of the group with no points to show from their opening two fixtures in the competition while Jaish sit top of the table with six from a possible six.
Abderrazak Hamedallah added to his goal in the first game at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium last week with a strike in the 49th minute.
The hosts made it 2-0 after Hamedallah set up Yasir Isa with a through ball as Al Ain goalkeeper Khalid Eissa rushed out of his area. Eissa entirely missed the ball and enabled Isa to slot into an empty net to double their advantage.
Substitute striker Saeed Al Katheeri pulled a goal back for Al Ain in the 86th minute with a strong header from Rashed Essa’s cross.
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Published: March 2, 2016 04:00 AM