DUBAI // On the eve of their Asian Champions League opener against Al Gharafa, the Al Shabab coach Paulo Bonamigo had talked about the virtues of tactical discipline and the importance of winning maximum points at home.
Shabab's performance last night was sorely missing the first and they disappointed their coach on the second front as well, as the match ended in a goalless draw.
The home side had their chances after a tardy start, but Kieza, their striker, rarely threatened the opposition goalkeeper.
On a day that saw fellow Pro League side Al Jazira record a 4-2 victory over Nasaf Qarshi in Uzbekistan and Al Nasr narrowly lose 1-0 away in Iran to Sepahan, Shabab looked far from convincing on their return to Asia after two years out of the continental competition.
"I think both teams played well," said Bruno Metsu, the Gharafa coach and former UAE national team manager. "In the first half, we had the advantage and possession, and Shabab were forced to play counter attacks. The second half was completely different and Shabab put a lot of pressure on us. We had to play defensive. So I think the draw is a fair result.
"Shabab are a good side. They beat the team from Uzbekistan 3-0 [Neftchi in the ACL play-off] and they had a 3-1 win over Baniyas. They were in a positive state of mind and they have a lot of quality, especially in attack. So we are satisfied and this result should give us confidence going forward."
Shabab looked edgy from the start and slippery conditions under foot did not help their cause. Gharafa, runners-up in the Qatar Stars League last season but struggling in sixth place in the current campaign, were quicker to adapt and should have taken the lead in the 25th minute after Diego Tardelli found himself in front of an unmanned goal after Shabab goalkeeper Ismael Rabea had left his line, but the Brazilian missed from close range.
At the other end, Azizbek Hydarov tested the Gharafa keeper Qasem Burhan with a long-range effort in the 28th minute.
From the ensuing corner, Walid Abbas tried to squeeze the ball in at the near post, but Burhan again punched it out of play.
Seconds before the break, Ciel, the Brazilian forward, had a golden opportunity to put the hosts ahead after receiving a cross from Kieza, but he failed to control the ball and tripped over the substitute Gharafa keeper Abdulaziz Ali Abdulla, who had replaced the injured Burhan in the 35th minute.
Ciel was denied again in the third minute of the second half as well when his free-kick hit the crossbar.
Fahid Al Shammari tested Rabea with a dead-ball of his own, but Rabea had it covered.
Two minutes later, Kieza should have headed Mahmoud Qassim's cross into the net, but he missed the target by a wide margin.
Kieza missed again with a header in the 72nd minute, much to the anger of the home fans.
The Shabab supporters were agonising yet again in the 77th minute when Carlos Villanueva, one of the better players for the home team, flicked the ball wide from a close range.
The story of misses continued into the final minutes of the match, with Nasser Masood's 85th-minute header brushing the post.
In the final minute, Villanueva, the Chile international, smashed a left-foot effort straight at the Gharafa keeper, summing up their night.