AL AIN // El Jaish deserve the opportunity to fight for a place in the Asian Champions League final and must therefore leave nothing behind in their quest to reach it, according to manager Sabri Lamouchi.
The Qatari club, never before this far into the competition, advanced to the semi-final against Al Ain by defeating Dubai's Al Nasr 4-0 on aggregate in the last round.
El Jaish had lost the first leg 3-0, but the result was subsequently reversed by the Asian Football Confederation after they deemed Nasr striker Wanderley had played using a falsified passport. The Brazil-born forward scored twice in the initial encounter.
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Yet, when asked if his side must make the most of the reprieve when they face Al Ain on Tuesday in the first leg at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, Lamouchi responded: “This is not a second chance for us. We didn’t make a mistake. Our mistake was to miss the first game at home, but we are here not because of that.
“My team deserves to be here. We finished first in the group, with a big club like Al Ain, like Al Ahli Jeddah, and then we won in bad circumstances versus Al Nasr. So don’t ask me anything about this decision. We respect the rules and, after you respect the rules, the pitch decides.”
Lamouchi, without star striker Abderrazak Hamdallah as he recovers from long-term injury, said he is wary of an Al Ain side intent on revenge. El Jaish clinched a quick-fire double against their lofty opponents at the beginning of the group stages, winning 2-1 in the Garden City and then by the same scoreline at home seven days later.
“I know for you it was big surprise El Jaish won two games in one week against the big club Al Ain,” Lamouchi said. “It was a big, big surprise. Tomorrow will be different, so I’m a little preoccupied. We’ll play against 11 players determined to give their best for this game.
“My players never played in the semi-final; Al Ain won and lost the final a long time ago and now they want to win it again. But I trust in my players. We’ll try and give the best image of El Jaish and Qatari football and after nobody knows what will happen, only God. We don’t want to have some regrets at the end.”
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