Weakened Al Ain out of Asian Champions League

The coach Alexandre Gallo laments his team's wastefulness in front of goal as FC Seoul beat the UAE club 3-0 in Korea.

Ahmed al Shamisi sends in a free kicks for Al Ain during their 3-0 defeat to South Korea’s FC Seoul.
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FC Seoul 3 // AL Ain 0

SEOUL // Al Ain's hopes of advancing to the knockout phase of the continental club tournament they won in 2003 ended yesterday in a defeat to FC Seoul.

Dejan Damjanovic, a striker from Montenegro, scored twice for Seoul, the K-League champions who clinched a berth in the last 16 of the Asian Champions League with a match in hand.

Al Ain ultimately paid the price for fielding an under strength side ahead of their Pro League make-up game on Sunday away to Al Ahli, but Alexandre Gallo, their coach, was left to lament his team’s wastefulness in front of goal.

“The disappointing part of the game was that we managed to create a number of chances but we couldn’t score. Despite that, we played a good game,” he said.

“We decided to field a team made up of young players, the AFC Champions League is a great experience for them and they all fought very well.

“I was in charge of FC Tokyo when we played in a friendly here in 2006 and compared to that Seoul team, this Seoul team is more impressive. There are a lot of local players with lots of ability who have what it takes to play overseas.”

Gallo left most of his first choice players back in Al Ain as the club remain at risk of relegation; they are a point clear of the drop zone with six league matches to play.

Only one player who started in the Etisalat Cup final on Friday made the journey to South Korea, the midfielder Shehab Ahmed. Most of the team, aside from the goalkeeper Ismail Rabea, were young players seeing their first international action.

The UAE side had moved back into contention for a top-two finish in Group F with a scoreless draw away to Hangzhou Greentown and a 1-0 victory over the same club in a match at Al Ain.

Seoul took the lead after 15 minutes before a 23,623 crowd at World Cup Stadium. Mauricio Molina, a Colombian midfielder who played in the Fifa Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi last December with Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma, found space on the left.

His low cross was mis-controlled by Damjanovic on the edge of the area, but it ran through to Ko Yo-han who, standing on the left side of the box, lifted the ball over Rabea and into the Al Ain goal.

The visitors had a great chance to draw level nine minutes later. Haddaf Mohammed’s smart pass set Mohammed Abdulrahman free of the Seoul defence. The striker’s low shot from the right-hand edge of the penalty area was well-struck, but was pushed away by Han Il-koo at the near post.

Seoul continued to press for a second goal and came close after half an hour as Lee Sung-ryeol danced around two defenders just outside the area to unleash a powerful shot that the Al Ain goalkeeper did well to keep out.

It eventually came six minutes before the break and in some style. Koh Myung-ji curled in a ball from the left side that eluded the Al Ain defenders standing on the edge of the six-yard box but not the diving Damjanovic, whose powerful header gave the goalkeeper no chance.

The second half started quietly, though Al Ain began to see more of the ball. Just past the hour, the nine-time UAE champions missed a glorious chance to pull a goal back. Khaled Abdulrahman’s cross from the left touchline floated over the head of the Seoul goalkeeper, leaving Abdulaziz Fayez with a simple tap in. Unfortunately, the substitute pulled his shot wide from close range.

Any hope for Al Ain was extinguished with 17 minutes remaining. Damjanovic beat the goalkeeper to a lobbed ball from Ko into the area and his header looped over Rabea and bounced into the net to remove any doubt as to the outcome of the contest.

Al Ain’s final game in the competition is at home against Nagoya Grampus, on May 11. The Japanese side will be playing to finish top of Group F. At present, Nagoya Grampus and Seoul each have 10 points.

Choi Yong-soom, Seoul’s caretaker coach, was happy with his team’s performance. “Each of the players stuck to the tasks they were given and gave their all in a tough game and because of that they were able to get a good result. We are trying to play our football and that is what I told the players to go out and do,” he said.

Choi is temporarily in charge after Hwangbo Kwan resigned on April 25 and the former assistant has now led the team to two consecutive wins.

"The atmosphere around the team is improving. We can play better football than we did tonight but we are moving in the right direction," he said.

Jazira lose again in ACL

Pro League leaders Al Jazira continued their disappointing form in the Asian Champions League last night when they suffered a heavy loss to Al Gharafa in Doha.

Younis Mahmoud opened the scoring in the 5-2 rout at Thani Bin Jasim Stadium after 10 minutes but it was Jazira who led when the teams went into break.

Ahmad Juma’a pulled Jazira level before Ricardo Oliveira, the Brazilian striker, converted a penalty before the interval. The Qatari side showed their quality in the second half with four unanswered goals through Amara Diane and Merghani al Zain before Younis completed a hat-trick to leave Gharafa third in the table on seven points. Jazira remain bottom of Group A with one point.