x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Braga is playing it safe

Al Jazira club so far are the only unbeaten side in all three competitions but after last season's heartbreak, the coach is proceeding with caution.

ABU DHABI // Having finished second in the league for the past two seasons, and third for the three campaigns before that, Al Jazira are used to disappointment as they chase their first major silverware. Not surprisingly, coach Abel Braga proceeds with caution when asked about his team ending such a frustrating run. The Brazilian took charge of the team last season, and saw them lead the table for most of the season, before finishing second behind Al Ahli in a title race that went down to the final day. The Jazira management feel Braga is the man who can end the drought and renewed his contract for two years up to 2011.

The Abu Dhabi club so far are the only unbeaten side in all three competitions - the league, Etisalat Cup and President's Cup. And if there was any further indication needed that Jazira have champion quality, they showed it on Monday when they came from two goals down to sink Sharjah 4-2 and move five points clear of their nearest rivals in the league - Baniyas and Al Ain, who were playing the fourth, placed Al Wahda last night. Sharjah had taken a 2-0 lead through the Iraqi forward Mustafa Karim and Emirati midfielder Humaid Ahmed. Jazira's Ivorian forward Tony cut the lead four minutes before the break and Ibrahim Diaky fired home the equaliser on the stroke of half-time.

And Ricardo Oliveira, the Pro League's most expensive signing, inspired a turnaround when he scored twice in the last 10 minutes to secure his team's win. The Brazilian, signed for a record ?15 million (Dh82m), was on target with a neat header to put his team ahead and then controlled a long ball superbly before beating his marker and the Sharjah stopper Ahmed Mubarak. "This single performance is not going to win us the league," said Braga. "We still have a long way to go. We were in this position last season and one drawn game with Al Shaab put paid to our chances. Now that we are in the lead, every team will be after us, and this is also not uncommon in football.

"However, I'm very pleased with our performance with Sharjah. This game showed the true character of our team. They played to their true potential and this is what I would expect from them in every game. "It is a good position to be at this stage of the competition. But we need to maintain the lead, which is not going to be easy. It's not about big clubs and weaker teams, we can't drop our guard against any team. The weaker teams will create an upset result or two and ruin the chances of any team. It happened to us last season and shouldn't happen again."

Mohammed Salem scored two second half goals as Al Dhafra came twice from behind to claim a seven-goal thriller 4-3 over Emirate in the Pro League last night. The Moroccan Nabil Daoudi scored twice and compatriot Hassan Tiar fired the other for the visitors to put the visitors twice in front. The Burkina Faso forward Abdoulaye Cisse and Hamad Abdulrahman were on target for Dhafra before Salem's brace earned them the three points. @Email:apassela@thenational.ae