x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Al Ain look to kick-start season following Etisalat Cup win

Al Ain are hoping the crisis is behind them after twice erasing one-goal deficits to defeat Al Wasl and progress to the final of the Etisalat Cup.

Al Ain are hoping the crisis is behind them after twice erasing one-goal deficits to defeat Al Wasl and progress to the final of the Etisalat Cup.

"We hope this will be the point where our season changes, inshallah," said Alexandre Gallo, the Brazilian, who since December has led the league's most-decorated side.

"This game for sure represents something new for us. We had been missing a little confidence. This was a very good victory for us."

Al Ain trailed 1-0 and 2-1 because of the savvy of Francisco Yeste, Wasl's Spanish midfielder. He earned a penalty in the first half and scored an uncontested goal from midfield in the 50th minute as Al Ain celebrated their first strike. "You expect that kind of goal from such an intelligent player," said Sergio Farias, the Wasl coach.

Al Ain have won more top-flight championships, nine, than any UAE team, but the club have been hit hard by injuries and have plunged into the relegation zone by failing to win in their past 11 Pro League matches.

Against Wasl, they were without the playmaker Omar Abdulrahman, who is on national team duty, and the new international Valentin Badea, who has a broken jaw. They twice had opportunities to give up.

"The players never surrendered," Gallo said. "They always believed. They knew it would be hard but not impossible to win the match."

Al Ain will play Al Shabab for one of the three domestic trophies, which could be a salve for a lost league season. The club also will be aiming to escape being relegated for the first time as well as attempting to advance in the Asian Champions League. Al Ain began ACL play with a home loss and are scheduled to play at Nagoya Grampus in Japan on Tuesday.

 

poberjuerge@thenational.ae