Alberto Zaccheroni’s first game in charge ended in defeat but the UAE manager said his players can take plenty of positives from their performance against Haiti.
A fiercely struck effort from Duckens Nazon hit the post and bounced off Mahmoud Khamis’ knee and into the back of the net to give the visitors victory in their international friendly at the Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain on Friday night.
The Italian set his side up in a 4-3-3 formation but found visiting goalkeeper Johny Pacide in excellent form while defenders Mohanad Salem and Ismail Ahmed were both denied by the crossbar.
“I don’t like to speak on the good and bad fortunes but we were unlucky on a couple of occasions and to some good work by the Haiti goalkeeper,” the Italian said.
Pacide, who plays for Oldham Athletic in England's third tier, was tested throughout, tipping Omar Abdulrahman's effort over the crossbar and blocking a close-range shot from Mohammed Al Akberi before showing quick reflexes to deny Abdulrahman's follow up.
Zaccheroni lamented his side's slow start to the match but was encouraged by the way they grew in confidence thereafter.
“Our performance wasn’t up to the level in the first 25 minutes but I was pleased with their efforts thereafter,” he said.
“The players started to understand the mechanisms. They didn’t leave the opponents with any opportunities with close marking. And then, we had several chances to score but unfortunately it didn’t happen.
“This is the first match and they tried their best. I was upset about the first 25 minutes. After that they played collectively. My philosophy is to play collectively as a team.”
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Zaccheroni was deprived of several senior players, with strikers Ali Mabkhout, Ahmed Khalil and Ismail Matar missing through injury. But the former AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus manager said it gave him the opportunity to look at other players in his squad.
“Injuries are not unusual in football,” he said. “We have a lot of time for those players to return to the squad as we don’t have any official matches until the 2019 Asian Cup. It also provides me with the opportunity to see new players.”
Tasked with reaching at least the final of the 2019 Asian Cup, to be held in the Emirates, Zaccheroni's next assignment is against Uzbekistan in Al Ain on Tuesday. Having won the tournament with Japan in 2011, the Italian urged patience as his players try to absorb his methods.
“We have to play the Uzbekistan match from the 25th minute as we played tonight,” he said.
“We will have a new plan and new tactics for this game. Of course everybody wants everything right now but results are not available immediately. We need time.
“I spoke to the players and congratulated them for their efforts against Haiti because this is the first match and they tried their best to implement the plan.”