Esperance de Tunis manager Mouine Chaabani criticised his team after their “disappointing and humiliating” defeat to Al Ain in the Fifa Club World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday.
Arabian Gulf League champions Al Ain, participating in the Club World Cup as the host representatives, took apart the African Champions League winners 3-0 at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.
Al Ain led 2-0 inside 16 minutes thanks to goals from Emirati defender Mohamed Ahmed – the fastest goal in Club World Cup history – and Egyptian winger Hussein El Shahat, before Bandar Al Ahbabi stretched their lead further in the 60th minute.
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The result left Chaabani furious with his players and their inability to get back into thegame after falling behind so early.
“It’s a very disappointing and humiliating result, especially when you lose 3-0 as the CAF champions,” Chaabani said. “The first goal was the turning point because we lost focus on the pitch from that point. Then 15 minutes later we conceded another goal and it became even harder for us.
“We faced a big challenge to get back in to the game in the second half and introduced a third striker to open up the game, but we were unlucky.
“It’s not my habit to criticise the players because I always stand by them, but tonight their performance was very disappointing. All the players were thinking individually and not collectively.
“There are certain periods and certain times we need to play collectively but I didn’t see them doing it.”
Chaabani said he had no excuses for Esperance’s defeat, insisting his team had arrived in Abu Dhabi well prepared and wary of the threat posed by Al Ain, who had fought back from 3-0 down to beat Team Wellington on penalties in the previous play-off match.
“All that work wasn’t recognised on the field by my players tonight,” he said. “We also warned our players that Al Ain had big character. We watched and observed their performance against Team Wellington where they came from three down to win that game.”
Despite being the away team, Esperance fans made their presence felt inside the stadium, and Chaabani has vowed a much-improved performance when the Tunisian side take on Central American champions Guadalajara in the fifth-place play-off on Tuesday.
“We didn’t expect to lose this game and our fans didn’t expect us to lose this game, so it was very disappointing,” Chaabani said. “Yes, the fans were expecting a good result from us and we really wanted to play in the semi-finals.”
“We have three days to prepare for the next game and we’ll definitely overcome the mental block of losing to Al Ain for some consolation to our reputation and for our fans.”
Al Ain move on to face Copa Libertadores holders River Plate in Tuesday's semi-final, also at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.