x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Al Shaab coach delighted after 'hard fought' victory over Emirates

Emirates 1 Al Shaab 2 The pre-tournament favourites had skipper Haidar Ali sent off as they crashed to a shock defeat against the Division One side.

Al Shaab, in red and blue, beat the favourites Emirates in the first-round-robin match.
Al Shaab, in red and blue, beat the favourites Emirates in the first-round-robin match.

Emirates 1 Al Shaab 2

AJMAN // Sergio Alexandre, the Al Shaab coach, saluted his team for an "amazing" game after they stunned Emirates 2-1 in their opening match of the Pro League play-offs last night.

Emirates, one of the pre-tournament favourites to return to the Pro League, made a disastrous start when their captain Haidar Ali, a summer acquisition from Al Wahda, was sent off in the 17th minute.

The Ras Al Khaimah club's other star signing, the Argentine German Herrera who scored the opening goal, then missed a penalty in the 74th minute to compound their misery.

Between Herrera's 22nd minute goal and his miss, Michael N'dri and Rodrigo Souza scored for Shaab to give the Sharjah-based club the best possible start as they attempt a return to the top division for the first time since 2008/09.

"Our team played an amazing, amazing first half," Alexandre said, claiming results were secondary to him.

"I want my players to play amazing football. I know this is a championship, but I like my team to get a good result by playing great football," he said.

"So I thank God for giving us this opportunity to show what we can do. I must thank my administration for a good job, and my staff and the players, because it is they who won the match.

"They fought really hard and I am very happy with their performance."

Shaab, who have languished in Division One since been relegated in 2009, made a battling start, fighting as their coach had promised, and looked the better side with Careca and N'dri a constant threat.

Good fortune came their way as well when the Emirates captain Ali received a straight red in the 17th minute following his mistimed challenge on Souza.

The Shaab striker had only the Emirates goalkeeper Motaz Abdullah ahead of him as he darted towards the box and Ali was forced into a desperate slide to stop the Brazilian.

The Emirates fans, disappointed at the dismissal and fearing the worst, were cheering five minutes later when Herrera darted into the box, sidestepped a couple of Shaab defenders and tapped the ball home.

Modibo Diarra should have doubled Emirates' tally in added time of the first half after being set up by Herrera, but he took too much time and eventually his shot was deflected off a defender.

Two minutes into the second half, that miss came back to haunt Emirates when N'dri equalised with a blistering header, the Frenchman powering Ahmed Issa's cross just wide of the keeper.

Shaab then took the lead in the 58th minute when Souza muscled his way past Suroor Salem and fired home.

Emirates had a golden opportunity to equalise in the 74th minute when Yaqoob Hassan brought down Herrera and the referee pointed to the penalty spot.

The Argentine, however, hit the post. The woodwork denied Herrera once again in the 79th minute when his header bounced off the bar.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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