Injuries and bad luck contributed to Al Jazira losing out on the Pro League title, according to Abel Braga.
Braga blames Jazira's bad luck
ABU DHABI // Injuries and bad luck contributed to Al Jazira losing out on the Pro League title, according to Abel Braga. The club finished second in the table for the third successive season but Braga, the coach, was adamant his team had performed much better than in their two previous campaigns. "We lost only one game in the league, and we were a bit unlucky in the President's Cup and the Asian Champions League (ACL), said the Brazilian, whose contract was extended last year until June 2011." But there are a lot of positives we can take forward from this season.
"Some of the games we drew in the league affected us and they were not matches where we should have shared a point. In most cases we played well and deserved to win, but didn't have the luck. In some instances, we had injury problems, particularly in the ACL. "I don't like to find excuses, but they are some of the facts or reasons for us not winning the league or progressing beyond the group stage of the ACL. We lost the President's Cup semi-final in a penalty shoot-out."
Jazira are five points behind Al Wahda, the champions, going into tonight's final round of games. They lost to Al Shabab on penalties after a 0-0 draw in the President's Cup semi-final and finished at the bottom of their ACL group. Jazira can still claim honours when they face Ajman, who have been relegated along with Emirate, in the season-ending Etisalat Cup final at Al Nasr's Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai on May 22.
And Braga intends to use tonight's match at Al Wasl as part of his team's preparation. "Obviously we want to keep a good record in the league to just one defeat and winning the cup will be some consolation, which I believe is a fairly good season." Braga refused to comment on the impact of his foreign players this season but losing Fernando Baiano, their top scorer, to neighbouring Wahda, for whom he was the top scorer, was a huge blow.
Baiano scored 35 goals for Jazira in his first season when on loan from the Spanish side Real Murcia, but he moved to Wahda when he was available on a free transfer. Jazira offered him a two-year contract worth ?6 million (Dh30m); Baiano wanted a three-year, ?9m deal. "Baiano without doubt was a good striker and he had established an excellent partnership with Rafael Sobis. But it is the management's decision and I can only work with those players I have been entrusted with," Braga said.
Elsewhere tonight, Josef Hickersberger, the Al Wahda coach, is aiming to end the season unbeaten at home. The champions, who won the title last week by beating Sharjah, face Al Nasr and victory would mean they have won all their 11 Pro League games at the Al Nahyan Stadium. "When there is a piece of history to be made by winning all our home games in the league for the first time in the history of the club, why not go out there and achieve it," said Hickersberger. "It will also be a nice way to end the season with a win and add to the official celebrations" when Wahda receive the Pro League trophy.
"The players are already celebrating but I have told them our job is not complete until the final game. It will be a tough task to get them motivated but at least they have realised the significance of winning this game for their fans." In other games, Sharjah are at home to Al Ain, Al Ahli face Al Dhafra, Ajman play Al Shabab and Baniyas meet Emirate.