Loss to Al Muharraq will not dent Al Shabab’s hopes

Al Muharraq defeated a disappointing Al Shabab 1-0 on Wednesday night to stay atop Group B and virtually assure themselves of a place in the quarter-finals of the Gulf Clubs Championships.

Despite a 1-0 setback at home to Bahrain's Al Muhrraq, coach Marcos Paqueta remains confident in Al Shabab's Gulf Clubs Cup quest.  Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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Al Muharraq - Hussain Ali 30'

Man of the Match - Hussain Ali (Al Muharraq)

DUBAI // Marcos Paqueta says Al Shabab's 1-0 loss at home to the Bahraini side Al Muharraq does not end their ambition of qualifying for the knockout stages of the Gulf Clubs Championships.

Shabab wasted several chances on Wednesday night, allowing the 2012 champions Muharraq to return home with three points. Hussain Ali’s strike at the half-hour mark was enough for the Bahrainis and the win takes their tally to six points from two Group B matches. They earlier beat Saudi club Al Shoalah 1-0.

Shabab and Shoalah have a point each following their 1-1 draw two weeks ago, but with two teams from each group qualifying for the last eight, Paqueta is confident his team will make the grade.

“It was clear that whichever team scored first would have the advantage,” Paqueta said. “We tried to do this in the beginning, created many chances, but unfortunately could not score. On the other hand, they managed to score in the first half.

“But this loss does not mean it is the end of our hopes of qualifying for the second round. We still have a few matches ahead and we can still qualify.”

The Shabab first team has been out of action for some time due to the stop in the league and it showed in their performance. The hosts looked short on match-practice and wasted some great opportunities before Ali opened the scores.

Adeilson hit the post in the opening minute. Azizbek Haydarov drilled a long-range effort into the goalkeeper in the 12th minute and, in the 26th minute, Edgar Bruno ballooned the ball high over the goal from tapping distance.

At the other end, Esam Dahi made a goal-line save in the 29th minute as the Shabab goalkeeper Ismail Rabea charged out of the box for a clearance, but seconds later Hussain Ali, set-up by Fahad Yousuf, tapped the ball home under the sliding Rabea.

Haydarov came close to equalising for the hosts before the break from a free-kick just outside the box, but the Muharraq goalkeeper Ahmed Hussain did well to tip it over.

Shabab were unlucky again in the 57th minute when Bruno hit the far post. Four minutes later, Mahmoud Qassim had an easy put-away, but missed the target.

“We came here knowing we would face a very good team with excellent foreign players,” said Salman Sharida, who was standing in as Muharraq coach as their manager Ali Amir is ill.

“This awareness helped us achieve our goal, which is three points, and I congratulate my players.

“We wanted to make sure we did not receive an early goal, especially in the first quarter, because Shabab are playing at home and if they had taken the lead, it would have been very difficult for us. Thankfully, we managed to do that.

“This is the first time for me to lead the team and I am happy I could get the job done.”

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