x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Al Wahda coach Ivankovic expects reaction from players

Manager given boost by returns of Ismail Matar and Hamdan Al Kamali.

Branko Ivankovic, the Al Wahda coach, was disappointed by his side’s defeat to Dubai.
Branko Ivankovic, the Al Wahda coach, was disappointed by his side’s defeat to Dubai.

ABU DHABI // A 6-1 home victory over Al Shaab in the Etisalat Cup 18 days ago will provide no comfort for Branko Ivankovic, the Al Wahda coach, when they travel to Sharjah for a Pro League meeting with the promoted club.

Wahda had gone without defeat in four games - two in the Etisalat Cup and two in the Pro League - before a disappointing 2-1 home setback to Dubai last week.

Ivankovic described that game as Wahda's worst for the season and has demanded a win to make up for it from tonight's match against Shaab.

"That game is still hurting me and I know it hurts the players too," the Croatian said. "That defeat has added a lot of pressure on us and the only way we can get out of that is a win.

"We want to think the worst is over for us when we play Shaab. We want to return with three points and anything less than that would be very disappointing."

Ismail Matar, the captain who was rested after receiving treatment for his injured knee in Germany, is expected to be back after missing the last game along with the injured Hamdan Al Kamali, the central defender.

However, Ivankovic will be without Mohammed Shaibah, the Oman international who is recovering from a groin injury he suffered during his country's 2-1 victory over Jordan in the 2014 World Cup qualifier two weeks ago.

"We have done some solid work with both Ismail and Hamdan back in the squad," Ivankovic said.

"For me, Ismail is one of the best players in the country and his absence is always felt. He is a player who can make a lot of difference on the pitch and a player who can win games for us."

Matar, Al Kamali, and Shaibah were absent in the last game and Ivankovic refused to blame their absence as the reason for his team's defeat to Dubai.

"We had [lots of] shots at the Dubai goal and created 11 scoring chances yet we came short. It was a game where nothing worked for us," he said.

"I think it was one bad game we had. The players are all aware how important it is to win against Shaab and they have trained with that in mind.

"It is true we won against them by a big margin but that is history. This is a new game and we need to play true to our potential to achieve our objective. At this stage we can't afford to drop any points."

Sergio Alexandre, the Shaab coach, also felt his team had a bad day when they met Wahda last time.

"Something went missing on that night when we last met Wahda but we are definitely a better team than the result would suggest," the Brazilian said.

"There is no denying the fact they are a better team because we are returning to the Pro League after three years.

"But we are not worried about whom we play and previous results as we will try to win as we do in every game."

apassela@thenational.ae