AL AIN // Mark Allen, the manager of the Manchester City academy, says football in the UAE is moving in the right direction with steady progress being made on the tactical side of the game.
Allen has brought an Under 17 team to take part in the Al Ain International Football Juniors Championship and yesterday his City side cruised to their third straight win of the tournament, defeating the hosts 2-1.
Gregory Leigh's 26th minute header settled the game in City's favour after Yousuf Ahmed's goal nine minutes earlier had cancelled out Jordy Mayifuila's ninth-minute opener for the English team, but Al Ain had their chances of levelling the scores, even after they were reduced to 10 men in the 76th minute when Saeed Ali, their captain, was sent off when he picked up his second yellow card of the game.
Allen was impressed with the performance Al Ain gave his team and he said: "The tactical level of the game here is getting better and better all the time.
"The understanding of the game - tactically, where to play, when to push - a big improvement.
"So I think it is definitely going in the right direction.
"We knew it was going to be a very tough game. We know Al Ain play very good football and they tried to play the game in the right way.
"We knew we were in for a battle, so it was important for us to start quickly and get into our game."
The defeat has ended Al Ain's hopes of retaining the trophy, but Abdulreza Barzegari saluted his players, who did not get much time to prepare for the tournament as they have been busy with their school exams in recent weeks.
Barzegari said most of his players had missed around seven of the 15 training sessions that had been scheduled over the last month as their parents would not give them permission to take time out.
"I thank all my players, not just for this game but all three matches," Barzegari said. "This was one of the best matches we have played during this championship.
"The circumstances coming into the championship were a bit difficult because of the school exams, but I think we played really well, especially against one of the best football academies in England."
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