One swallow is not going to make a summer. The old adage must have crossed the mind of the Al Shabab coach Toninho Cerezo after one good game followed by a bitter 4-1 defeat from the Saudi club Al Ettifaq left them languishing at the bottom of the Asian Champions League Group D. Cerezo's men travelled to Dammam on Wednesday buoyed by a resounding 2-0 home win over the Uzbek club Budyonkor only to return with the wisdom of learning that one good game doesn't make them good enough to move forward in the competition.
Ettifaq took an early 2-0 lead and doubled the score through late goals to take their tally to six points and move to the top of the table. Sepahan of Iran and Bunyodkor, both on four, are a solitary point ahead of Cerezo's team. The Ghanaian Prince Tagoe broke the deadlock before rounding off the game with his second goal of the match. Saleh Bashir scored twice in-between. The Brazilian Carlos Renato pulled one back in the stoppage time of the first half, but that was as far as the Dubai club could go.
Cerezo admitted his team were undone by the two early blows, saying: "The early goals affected us and our performance in the game. We had a chance to come back after we pulled a goal back but we couldn't score thereafter. I congratulate the Ettifaq coach because his side played a great game." The group is still wide open with just three points separating the four teams and Cerezo remained hopeful of avenging their defeat when they face Ettifaq at home on Apr 21.
The Brazilian added: "Now we have to look forward for the next game. We will play at home and we have an opportunity to get back on track." The Ettifaq coach Ioan Andone felt vindicated about his decision to play with four strikers. "This was our best game so far," he said. "I have watched five Shabab games and I have noticed that they have a slow defensive line. "We fielded four strikers because we knew that Shabab have problems at the back.
"However, this doesn't mean that they are a bad side as they are UAE champions and they are a good team. "Our four strikers were the difference in the game. "We had many chances to score in the first half but we conceded a goal which made the game harder for us in the second half. "We are now at the top of the group and we are determined to win in the next match. The next match in Dubai is really important and if we win this game, then we will secure our place in the next round."
Meanwhile, Al Hilal Bank began distributing 15,000 free tickets for Monday's President's Cup final between Al Ain and Al Shabab in a motorcade through Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah. A spokesman for the bank said: "We have eight branded Mercedes cars doing the rounds until the day of the final on Monday. They will visit all the popular places like the malls and shopping centres, distributing the tickets and club memorabilia's of both teams. The tickets are made available in the bank's branches all over the UAE.
"We are encouraging the Emiratis as well as the expatriates to come and cheer their favourite team and witness a good football final. If they are lucky, they can also win some fabulous prizes from raffle on the entrance tickets." firstname.lastname@example.org