x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Al Ahli are halfway there

Ivan Hasek had every reason to be satisfied after Al Ahli finished joint leader with Al Jazira at the halfway stage of the Pro League.

Ivan Hasek had every reason to be satisfied after Al Ahli finished joint leader with Al Jazira at the halfway stage of the Pro League. His side beat the defending champions Al Shabab 3-2, but that score could have been more had Ahli converted the several chances they created on home turf on Saturday. It was Shabab's seventh defeat this season.

"This result completes a good first half in the league for us," the coach said. "The score doesn't do justice to the way we dominated the game, but I have no reason to be disappointed after winning three points." Hasek knows he has a bigger task ahead with the 11 return leg matches and said: "Now we come to the business end of the competition. We are in a good position and it is important to maintain this lead from now onwards.

"It looks between Jazira, Al Ain and us at this stage but this can change with a couple of poor results for any of the three teams. Even the teams from the middle can move up within a few games." Ahli took a quick lead when they opened the scoring after only one minute through Hassan Ibrahim before Shabab levelled the scores a minute later through the Brazilian midfielder Carlos Renato de Abreu. Ahli scored again in the 28th minute through the AFC Young Player of the Year Ahmed Khalil before the Brazilian striker Jader Bare made it 3-1 after 39 minutes while Srour Salem pulled a goal back for Shabab one minute before the break.

The Shabab coach Toninho Cerezo admitted his team's chances of retaining their title were now all but over. "There is no hope in the league but we'll try to move up in the order. Cerezo added: "We are in the President's Cup semi-finals and the Champion League so we still have something to look forward to besides finishing in a better position in the league." Shabab are on 10 points in the league, just three ahead of the basement teams Al Shaab and the promoted Al Khaleej.

They face Al Wahda in the President's Cup semi-finals and are in Group D of the Champions League with the Uzbekistan club Kuruvichi Bunyodkor, Sepahan of Iran and Saudi Arabia's Al Ettifaq. apassela@thenational.ae