x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Al Dhafra coach tells squad to stay cool despite victory over Sharjah

'We cannot be euphoric or think we have done something. I know what we've done and I live in the real world,' says Dzemal Hadziabdic

AL Dhafra beat Sharjah 1-0 and are just one win away from promotion to the Pro League. Pawan Singh / The National
AL Dhafra beat Sharjah 1-0 and are just one win away from promotion to the Pro League. Pawan Singh / The National

AL AIN // Dzemal Hadziabdic, the Al Dhafra coach, has warned his players not to relax after they opened their Pro League play-offs campaign with a victory against Sharjah.

The Western Region club took a huge step toward the UAE top-flight on Tuesday night at Al Ain's Tahnoun bin Mohammed Stadium, defeating their illustrious rivals 1-0 courtesy of a second-half goal from their new signing Amara Diane.

The result leaves Dhafra knowing a win against Emirates on Sunday would all but seal promotion - the play-offs constitute a four-team, round robin - although Hadziabdic has demanded his side remain focused.

"We must now be calm and try in the next game against Emirates to sort out our weakness. We cannot be euphoric or think we have done something," he said. "I know what we've done and I live in the real world.

"[The Sharjah match] was a typical game, like life or death. Everyone was waiting for mistakes and we didn't play a beautiful game. But I prefer to play a poor game and win.

"Because I remember in England people say 'nobody remembers the beginning, only the end'. And it is very important people remember the end and that we won the game."

Dhafra started the game brightly and looked dangerous through Makhete Diop, the Senegalese forward who was one of nine summer recruits that made up Hadziabdic's starting XI.

However, a series of wasted chances allowed Sharjah, five times the UAE champions, to gain a foothold in the game, with last season's bottom club twice striking the woodwork in the first half.

"Ten minutes before half time we lost control in midfield and what we had worked on in training started to get very sloppy," Hadziabdic said. "I had strong words with some players, and I wanted a reaction.

"It was a very good second half and we won together as a team."

Hadziabdic also revealed he had considered replacing Diane at the interval as the Ivorian, who impressed last season at Al Nasr, struggled to cope with the pace of the game. Yet, following a few firm words at half time, Diane improved to head home the game's only goal.

"I got a reaction when he scored the goal, but I wanted to change him before then," Hadziabdic said. "However, this is the type of player that you never know when and how he will respond.

"I took a big risk but that happens sometimes."

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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