Hernan Crespo insists Al Ain did not deserve to lose ADIB Cup final to Al Wahda

Garden City club, who will face Yokohama F Marinos in Asian Champions League final, were defeated 1-0 at Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium

Al Wahda players and coaching staff celebrate after beating Al Ain in the ADIB Cup final at Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Friday, May 4. Photo: Al Wahda FC
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Al Ain manager Hernan Crespo said his side did not deserve to lose the ADIB Cup final to Al Wahda, but backed his team to rebound in their bid to become Asian champions later this month.

The Garden City club were defeated 1-0 at Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium on Friday night, with Lucas Pimenta’s 15-minute header proving decisive.

Al Ain, two-time League Cup winners but runners-up also last season, dominated the second half in Abu Dhabi, yet could not find a way past Wahda. Late on, striker Kodjo Laba struck a post with a header.

In winning, it was in fact Wahda who lifted the trophy for a third time, with captain and long-term servant Ismail Matar, 41, finishing his final season with his boyhood club with another title.

Speaking after the match, Crespo said: “First of all, congratulations to Al Wahda for becoming champions. In terms of football, we didn’t deserve to lose this game. We conceded this goal and I think one other chance in the second half.

“After that everything was about us. To try to shoot, to be dangerous … we hit the post. When this kind of situation happens, we need to accept. We managed the game, we were positive. For me, we made a good performance, but it’s not enough.”

In his first season in UAE football, Crespo said Al Ain were simply not clinical enough – Soufiane Rahimi, Kaku and Mathias Palacios all had efforts at goal – but that he was still full of pride in his players.

“Of course. [We were on top] not only in the second half – you can add the last 10 minutes of the first half,” he said. “This is football. It’s difficult to explain.

“We don’t have regrets. And that’s important. It’s important if you lose the final to try to put your head down and sleep without regrets. And these guys, for these players, must go home without any regrets, because they leave everything [on the pitch], they tried everywhere to score goals and to win the final.

“But football is not about deserves; it’s about goals. And we didn’t and they did.”

Al Ain have no real time to lick wounds. Third in the Adnoc Pro League as the season enters its final month, they face Khorfakkan on Monday needing a victory to pull within four points of second-placed Shabab Al Ahli with six matches remaining.

After that, Al Ain travel to Japan to take on Yokohama F Marinos in the first leg of the Asian Champions League final on May 11. Still the only UAE side to clinch the continental’s showpiece club crown, the 2003 champions host Marinos in the return fixture at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium two weeks later.

On how he expected Friday’s final defeat would impact his team, Crespo said: “You always prefer to prepare for these kinds of matches with victories, but nothing changed in terms of the Champions League.

“Yes, changed because we don’t want to lose a final, but it’s football. Now we need to be focused on the next match against Khorfakkan, then try to recover our energy to go to Japan and try to do our best like always.

“It’s a very big anticipation because these guys deserve to lift a trophy. They work very hard. You never know, this time miss out on this trophy, maybe Inshallah something big is coming.”

Updated: May 06, 2024, 8:46 AM