Caio, another Al Ain man for the big occasion, helps navigate a tough Round One

'It was tough for Al Ain' writes John McAuley of their opener, 'tougher than it should have been' but goalscorer Caio proved his and the team's nerve in negotiating a victory all the same.
Al Ain footballer Caio scored 23 goals in 78 league matches with Japan's Kashima Antlers before moving to Al Ain before this season. Arshad Khan / AGL
Al Ain footballer Caio scored 23 goals in 78 league matches with Japan's Kashima Antlers before moving to Al Ain before this season. Arshad Khan / AGL

Al Ain 1-0 Baniyas

Al Ain: Caio 70’

STORY OF MATCH

AL AIN // For the second time in five days, just when his new Al Ain side needed him most, Caio stepped up to the plate and clinched a victory.

The Brazilian, a summer signing from Japan’s Kashima Antlers, was the hero of last week’s Asian Champions League encounter at Uzbekistan’s Lokomotiv Tashkent, scoring the only goal of the tie to seal a spot in the last four.

On Sunday, Caio was at it again, his sublime half volley from the edge of the Al Ain penalty area clinching victory against Baniyas on their opening assignment of the 2016/17 Arabian Gulf League campaign.

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Until that point, Al Ain had disappointed. The 12-time champions, runners-up to Al Ahli last season, stuttered and stumbled at a near-empty Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, with Danilo Asprilla particularly profligate and Douglas making little impact.

Asprilla bore the brunt of the few supporters that had turned out, the Colombian winger typically wasteful when in on goal. He spurned the game’s best opportunity not long into the match, drilling a low shot well wide when he had plenty of time and space, and only Ahmed Dida in the Baniyas goal, to beat.

By that stage, Caio had already struck the Baniyas post and placed another effort high over the crossbar, but the skilful wideman atoned on 70 minutes by thundering his latest effort past Dida and high into the Baniyas net off the underside of the bar. It should be noted that Asprilla provided the assist.

Until that point, Baniyas showed commendable resolve against a home team under Omar Abdulrahman’s influence, and could have made things even more difficult had Fellipe Bastos, the former Al Ain midfielder, scored with a long-range free-kick or goalkeeper Khalid Essa not saved well at his near post from a close-range header.

It was tough for Al Ain, tougher than it should have been, but Round One has been safely navigated. In Caio, they seem to have found another man for the big occasion.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Caio – the diminutive winger was always lively in possession, and appears to have quickly struck up a good relationship with Omar Abdulrahman. Displayed great control and technique for his goal, which deserved to win the match.

WHAT THE MANAGERS SAID

Zlatko Dalic, Al Ain: “For us, three points is most important from this game, it’s the only thing I asked from my players before it. We played five days ago in the Champions League and did everything there, so it was not easy to come back to our league. Thankfully we scored a goal and kept a clean sheet to continue for the second game, which is important for us.”

Pablo Repetto, Baniyas: “It was a difficult game, especially to begin the league. Because of an individual effort they score a goal and we have to go back to Abu Dhabi with no points. I’m not happy with the result, but I’m convinced by my team’s spirit and performance. In general, I’m satisfied with the level of the players. We should now look forward.”​

NATIONAL VERDICT

Al Ain were not at their best, perhaps because of their recent continental commitments, but in the end their superior quality was the difference. Baniyas are dogged and disciplined, although Joaquin Larrivey desperately needs assistance in attack.

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Published: September 18, 2016 04:00 AM

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