x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Al Shabab 3 Dubai 1

Confidence is restored at Al Shabab after a poor start to the season, the win against Dubai was the fourth in a row.

Al Shabab, in green, have turned their season around after a bad start. They have now won four in a row to climb up to eigth in the league. Al Ittihad
Al Shabab, in green, have turned their season around after a bad start. They have now won four in a row to climb up to eigth in the league. Al Ittihad

DUBAI // In a month that has again reminded how endangered an existence most Pro league managers endure, Marcos Paqueta proved last night to be a walking advertisement for patience.

Only four weeks ago, the Brazilian seemed certain to be the third coaching casualty of the new top-flight season, attracting from his superiors at Al Shabab the customary vote of confidence - a phrase often prefixed, with good reason, by "dreaded".

In Paqueta's case, any disenchantment was wholly justified. Shabab, one of the UAE's more established clubs and last season's third best side, had lost five of their opening eight league games. Paqueta was not so much walking the tightrope as dangling from it by his pinkie.

However, after yesterday evening's deserved victory against Dubai, the 54 year old is on altogether firmer footing. Shabab have now registered four consecutive triumphs, and in the process leapfrogged their latest opponents into eighth place.

Paqueta should not, therefore, become the fifth sacking of a campaign that is yet to reach its halfway point.

"Of course, the clubs should have more patience with their coaches," said Paqueta, who in the summer began his second stint at the Maktoum bin Rashid Stadium. "Because there is no coach in the world who can correct the things in a team and put a team together in six months.

"I'm not the only example, there's also [Walter] Zenga at Al Nasr and [Quique Sanchez] Flores at Al Ahli who are doing well. Coaches need time to set things up, adapt and get to know the team well."

In truth, Paqueta's men found themselves somewhat fortunate to be two goals ahead shortly after half time. They took the lead against the run of play when, on 18 minutes, Luiz Henrique wriggled free of a challenge on the left flank and squared to an unmarked Essa Obaid.

The midfielder had only Jamal Ali, the Dubai goalkeeper, to beat, with the visitors' last line of defence offering meagre resistance as he let the drilled effort squirm through his feeble palms.

The two reprised roles for Shabab's second six minutes into the second half, Obaid again through on goal and once more finding Ali in charitable mood. A toe-poked shot flew straight at the goalkeeper, but Ali allowed it to travel on through to the back of the net.

The remainder of the match provided little incidence - although both teams traded shots off the post through Ciel and Simon Pierre Feindouno - until injury time, with Rami Yaslam halving the deficit with the best goal of the game.

The diminutive winger cut in from the left to expertly curl his shot over Salem Abdulla, the hosts' custodian, and into the net via the underside of the bar. Dubai's delight was short-lived, though, Ciel collecting an Abdulla Abdulla pass to race clear and finish low past the onrushing Ali.

"I have a lot of respect for my players as they remained aggressive throughout," said Paqueta. "Today was a six-pointer and we still played very well. If we continue to play like this we will push on in the second half of the season.

"Our main goal is to finish in the top four. The team has come back after many bad results and now we look forward to moving up the table. But there is even more to come from us. We can achieve a lot more this year."

The defeat represented only Dubai's third in eight games, although coach Rene Marsiglia refused to be too downbeat.

"Some players were playing out of position tonight and so the standard can always drop," said the Frenchman. "We've usually played well against big teams, but we lost concentration.

"We need to eradicate our mistakes. We must learn from them, fix them and then we can look to the future. We will improve our performance to come back strongly in the second half of the season."

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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