DUBAI //Al Jazira maybe “sick” at the moment, but they are “not dead” and team manager Ayed Mabkhout is confident they will be back at the prime of their health sooner than later.
The Abu Dhabi side have endured a disappointing time since replacing Paulo Bonamigo with Luis Milla on February 21, moments after the Brazilian had guided his team to a commanding 4-1 win over Al Dhafra.
Jazira’s form has taken a sudden dip since that change and they have only one win from their last nine games. Milla has watched his team lose four of those matches and split points in four.
Under Bonamigo’s watch, the team had lost only four of their 25 matches; in the four months preceding his sack, the Brazilian had lost only once in 19 matches – 2-1 to Al Wahda in the President’s Cup quarter-final.
Mabkhout, however, believes the tide could be turning now, his prediction coming after a 3-3 draw at Al Nasr on Saturday.
“We put up a great show in the first 60 minutes against Nasr, but the low level of some of our players allowed Nasr back into the game,” Mabkhout said.
“After that we found ourselves 3-2 down, so getting a point from the game was really important.
“It showed the character of the team. Jazira maybe sick at the moment, but they are not dead and we assure the fans we are firmly on track to rediscover our true form.”
Milla also had a similarly optimistic assessment after the match. “The last game we played, we did not have the right attitude,” said the Spaniard. “We had the right attitude in this game and we tried to win the game.”
Goals from Ali Mabkhout and Ricardo Oliveira had given Jazira a 2-0 by the 48th minute, but Nasr were level at 2-2 in the 76th minute following a brace from Japanese star Takayuki Morimoto. Bruno Correa then made it 3-2 for the hosts in the 80th minute, but Oliveira’s second of the night, two minutes from time, made sure Jazira had at least a point from the game.
The result spoilt what could have been a perfect birthday gift from Nasr boss Walter Zenga to his youngest son, who turned one on the day. After Correa had put the ball into the back of the net, Zenga had turned to the galleries, where his wife was sitting, and pumped his fists triumphantly.
After the game, he cut a sorry figure, unable to comprehend how his defence had allowed Oliveira to score the equaliser.
“That [celebration] was for my wife because it is the birthday of my son,” Zenga said. “That is why I was celebrating because I thought it was a big gift for him, but it did not happen.”
=As Zenga sulked, the Jazira players were relieved to end up with honours even.
“I believe this could be the start of a positive new phase,” said Subait Khater.
“We played well and showed the level we could play at, against a strong team. Every team goes through rough patches, but I believe we are on our way back.”
Matias Delgado, Jazira’s Argentine midfielder, conceded the change of coach had adversely affected the team, but promised the players would consider every game as a “final” from now on and try to achieve “the best possible finish”.
“When you change a coach, there is a change in the way you play as well,” Delgado said. “So the players need a bit of time to adapt. It is also difficult because we are playing a game every three days and fatigue is a real issue.”
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