x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

All uphill now for Schaefer's men

The Pro League title aspirations of Winfried Schaefer's Al Ain side are dealt another severe blow when Al Nasr inflict a bitter 2-1 home defeat.

Al Nasr's Madanchi scored twice to knock Al Ain's title chances.
Al Nasr's Madanchi scored twice to knock Al Ain's title chances.

AL AIN // The Pro League title aspirations of Winfried Schaefer's Al Ain side were dealt another severe blow when Al Nasr inflicted a bitter 2-1 home defeat at the Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium on Saturday Schaefer's men have now dropped seven points from a possible 12 in the last four games to remain on 32 points behind the leaders Al Ahli (36) and Al Jazira (35), both of whom have a match in hand.

Schaefer remained hopeful and said: "It was indeed a disappointing result but I don't think our chances have disappeared altogether. Of course it has become more difficult. And our games with Ahli and Jazira will be critical. "We made a lot of mistakes in this match and I need to have a serious talk with my players. We had our chances to score in the first half and those missed opportunities cost us this game."

Ain had a couple of chances to go ahead in a first half where they enjoyed more possession and territorial advantage. Mehrzad Madanchi scored twice within eight minutes to give Nasr a 2-0 lead on the hour and substitute Faisal Ali pulled one back deep into injury time for a consolation goal for the nine times league champions. The Nasr coach Frank Pagelsdorf savoured the three points that shot his team to fourth spot, and improvement of six places.

"It was an important three points and puts us in a more comfortable position," said the German. "We were better organised in the second half and the goals arrived at the right time." The veteran Mohammed Omar, who played as the lone striker while the Iranian Madanchi did the damage, warned the pace setting Ahli and Jazira not to expect any favours from any team. He said: "The competition at the bottom of the league table is as hot as the race for the top spot. The difference is only nine points from the fourth and the last and, barring Ahli, Jazira and Ain, all others are in the danger zone.

"Even the team at the bottom of the point standings is going to be a handful for those battling to win the league, and Ain were to suffer from such a game. "We would have been in real danger had we not won the three points, but we still have a lot of work left to be sure we remain in the Pro League." Elsewhere, Al Dhafra beat Ajman 3-0 to record just their third win of the season. Saleh Al Minhali opened the scoring after 12 minutes before Togolese striker Kader Mohamed Cougbadja doubled the lead with 18 minutes remaining.

Cougbadja wrapped up the win two minutes later for third bottom Al Dhafra. apassela@thenational.ae