A torrid first week of the Asian Champions League for UAE teams was completed on Wednesday night with defeats for Al Ahli and Al Ain. Henk ten Cate, the Al Ahli coach, saw his team throw away a 2-1 lead in the last 15 minutes to lose 4-2 at Iran's Mes Kerman while Al Ain's Toninho Cerezo blamed the referee, long-ball tactics and the man-marking of his playmaker Jorge Valdivia for his side's 1-0 home defeat to Uzbekistan's Pakhtakor.
It meant that all four Pro League clubs - Al Wahda and Al Jazira the other two - lost their opening games in the tournament for the second year running. "This is the third game I have been in charge of Al Ahli and in the last two games we have lost in the last 15 minutes," said the Dutchman. "The players are still not completely fit for a full 90 minute clash." In their last Pro League match, Ahli allowed Baniyas to score twice in the final five minutes to return home with a point following a 2-2 draw.
Ten Cate added: "We have to work seriously in the coming days to solve this issue. We have many other shortcomings and we have to make a great effort to solve these problems and get the results that are expected." Cerezo had plenty of excuses for his team's defeat, courtesy of an Artur Gevorkyan winner on the hour. "They used the long ball quite effectively and closed the middle with three defensive midfielders," he said. "They had the No 7 [the Montenegro captain Darko Markovic] marking Jorge Valdivia throughout the game, and our midfield couldn't transfer clean ball to the forwards.
"There was also a lot of needless stoppages from the referee [China's Sun Bao Jie], particularly after they scored. It broke our rhythm and provided Pakhtakor enough time to recover. But we tried very hard and I don't blame any of my players." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org