Mbark Boussoufa spoke of his pride in his teammates after Al Jazira’s valiant effort against world champions Real Madrid, but knows the UAE side must recover quickly if they are to seal third spot at the Fifa Club World Cup.
The Abu Dhabi club, making their debut in the tournament, put in an incredible performance in the semi-final at Zayed Sports City on Wednesday night, leading until the 53rd minute courtesy of Romarinho's first-half goal.
However, Madrid fought back after the break through Cristiano Ronaldo's strike and substitute Gareth Bale’s 81-minute effort.
The reigning Spanish and European champions, seeking to become the first team to successfully defend the Club World Cup, were made to work for the win more than many expected, with Jazira having a goal disallowed right at the beginning of the second half to make it 2-0.
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Although the decision proved correct, replays showed Boussoufa was only a fraction offside before slotting home Ali Mabkhout’s pass on the counter-attack.
Yet the Moroccan midfielder was honest enough afterwards to concede Jazira were fortunate to be leading in the first place, with Madrid laying siege to the UAE champions’ goal and Ali Khaseif, the national team goalkeeper, in outstanding form.
Jazira have little time, though, to dwell on what might have been. On Saturday, they take on Mexico's Pachuca at Zayed Sports City stadium in the play-off for third place.
“We did well, although we were lucky a couple of times,” Boussoufa said. “We could’ve made it even more difficult for them, but at the end of the day it’s well done for the players. Of course, if you play against this team Madrid, it’s a little bit different. But we can look at ourselves and be proud.”
Boussoufa was left to rue his disallowed goal in the 47th minute, which was ruled out only after the officials had consulted the Video Assistant Referee.
It was the second time on the night that the technology was called upon. On 30 minutes, Madrid had a goal chalked off when Karim Benzema was proved correctly to be in an offside position before Jazira defender Salim Rashid had put the ball into his own net.
Speaking about his own incident, Boussoufa said: “Maybe half my body was offside, but OK, you’ve got to respect the decision. The first half they also made a decision. We don’t know. These things happen and we have to trust the decisions that are made from above.
“It’s not easy because you think you’ve scored and suddenly the ref decides not to let it through. But this is football and we have to accept this.
“It would have been more difficult for them. But as a team of that quality, they create chances any minute, any time. They were a little bit unlucky in their finishing so you can look at it like that way, or different ways, like you said.
"But in the end they deserved maybe to go to the final and maybe we could’ve stole the win. But this is football. This is how it goes.”
Asked about now focusing on Pachuca, and the chance to take bronze at the weekend, Boussoufa added: “Everybody was excited to play and to watch this game and now we have a game in a couple of days. We didn’t really even think about the next game, but now, from tomorrow on, we have to think about that.
“Let’s go home first and relax after this a little bit. And tomorrow we can check on that. But the mood is good. I think the players can be very proud.”