x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Braga backing Sobis to deliver

Optimism despite striker's poor debut. The Al Jazira coach believes his big-money signing will soon start producing top form.

Rafael Sobis runs with the ball on his debut against Al Wahda last Saturday, a game he struggled to make an impact in.
Rafael Sobis runs with the ball on his debut against Al Wahda last Saturday, a game he struggled to make an impact in.

ABU DHABI // Abel Braga has not lost faith in Al Jazira's record signing Rafael Sobis after a disappointing first appearance in the Pro League against city rivals Al Wahda in the 1-1 derby draw. The Brazil striker, who won a bronze medal with his country at the Beijing Olympics, was substituted in the second half and was jeered by rival fans.

Sobis was signed from the Spanish side Real Betis and the Brazilian coach Braga is confident the high-profile forward will return to play an influential role in tonight's Pro League match with promoted Al Khaleej at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium. "I am 100 per cent behind him," said Braga. "Sometimes foreign players take time to adapt. And I feel it is a matter of time before Sobis delivers. He is too good a player to stay out of the spotlight for long. If not in this game, he will come well from the next." He also defended his two other Brazilian signings Fernando Baiano and Marcio Rozario when questioned on their first outings.

"We can't put the blame on the foreign players. Baiano did what he was asked to do. It was our first game and we were up against one of the stronger teams. To have a point from the away game wasn't a disappointing result." Khaleej travel to Abu Dhabi after the 3-1 defeat they received from Al Dhafra. And they will have to come out with something extraordinary to deny Jazira from picking up full points.

Wahda and Al Ain meanwhile travel to Dubai and to the western region for games with Al Wasl and Al Dhafra. Wahda have a tougher engagement with Wasl, who edged out promoted Ajman 1-0 on the opening night. The Wahda coach Ahmed Abdulhaleem is convinced his team is moving in the right direciton and can get three points. "There is no let up this time," said the former Egypt international. "We started to win from the latter part of last season and we are on the forward drive. We want to be with the leading group from the start and we can only do so by winning our games."

Winfried Schaefer will be hoping to keep Ain in front of the chasing pack after their 4-0 thrashing of Sharjah. Ain's foreign signings - Chilean Jorge Valdivia, Moroccan Soufiane Alloudi and Brazilian Andre Diaz - all made their mark with a goal apiece on the opening night, it will be a real surprise if the nine times league champions failed to collect three points. apassela@thenational.ae