x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Play-offs do not add up

For any club to escape these play-offs positively tonight they will need concentration, courage and commitment. Oh, and a calculator.

Faouzi Benzarti, coach of Sharjah.
Faouzi Benzarti, coach of Sharjah.

For any club to escape these play-offs positively tonight they will need concentration, courage and commitment. Oh, and a calculator.

Such have been the results of the opening two rounds of this unfathomable four-team tournament that Al Dhafra, Al Shaab, Sharjah and Emirates each enter the final fixtures dreaming of a life in the Pro League.

Ambition, though, was preceded by confusion.

After Sunday's matches, UAE Football Association officials confirmed Dhafra promoted and consigned Emirates to Division One.

The Western Region club emerged 5-1 victors from the clash with their Ras Al Khaimah counterparts (suggesting there should perhaps be more than one tier separating the two when the season kicks off in 10 days' time) and, when attached to their opening-day triumph against Sharjah, it seemed Dzemal Hadziabdic's nascent side had reached the big time.

The Bosnian, whose 20 years in management hint he is no fool, was found in the bowels of the Maktoum bin Rashid Stadium considering an impending Pro League campaign. An aggressive recruitment policy - Dhafra signed 17 players during the summer - had been justified.

Whereas Lutfi Benzarti, the Emirates coach, could not even face the media post-match, so incensed was the Tunisian by his side slipping into obscurity.

Yet it appears he has been thrown a lifeline (or that one actually existed all along), much to the disbelief of his little brother, Faouzi, the Sharjah coach who anticipated a straight shoot-out with Shaab.

Tonight, managers need to be mathematicians as much as mentors.

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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