El Jaish face a slightly more manageable challenge to reach the Asian Champions League semi-finals after the Asian Football Confederation reversed last month's quarter-final, first-leg defeat to Al Nasr. The return match is Wednesday in Dubai.
In the first leg in Doha three weeks ago, Nasr triumphed 3-0 to put one foot in the last four. However, on Monday the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) ruled that Nasr striker Wanderley, who scored two goals in the initial match, was playing under a fake Indonesian passport. El Jaish were then awarded a 3-0 win, with Nasr seeking to appeal the decision.
Forgetting the ruling
“I can talk only about El Jaish, not about Al Nasr,” said Sabri Lamouchi, the Qatar side’s French manager. “What they want to do at Nasr, they can do. This is not my decision, it’s the AFC’s decision. I lost the first game, I am not so happy we didn’t turn up, so I know tomorrow it will be so difficult. One day before we arrived, the AFC gave a decision. They can change or keep the decision. We are here only to play football.”
“You play the first game of season and the most important competition for the club and players, and you miss completely a game like we did at home; we give them three goals,” Lamouchi said. “It was so hard to explain and to find excuses and reasons. In this three weeks, it was not easy, but we worked specifically not about the players but the group mentality. It was the worst game in 18 months with me. So we hope the next one will be after 18 months again.”
• Al Nasr appeal AFC's decision to forfeit Champions League quarter-final over Wanderley's 'false' passport
Seizing their opportunity
“Now, one day before the second game, we are here, still alive and better than before,” Lamouchi said. “And you know why, but we’re not qualified. We know it will be so hard tomorrow, but we cannot miss this opportunity. I just want to say that I trust my players, I believe in them, and finally after two months’ preparations, around 60 training sessions and seven friendly games, the season starts now. Tomorrow we will face a very good team, but we know what we can achieve after this game.”
Genuine star power
Last month, El Jaish signed Seydou Keita, the former Sevilla, Barcelona and Roma midfielder, who has twice won the Uefa Champions League. Speaking about the situation in which his new club find themselves, he said: "Personally it doesn't change anything for me. I play to win and I am very happy to have this chance to have an advantage to play the semi-final and then go to the final. I play with ambition and with the power to help my team to try to go to the semi-final."
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