Henk ten Cate proud of Al Jazira for giving Real Madrid a fright at Club World Cup
The Arabian Gulf League leaders led at half time against the Spanish and European champions before goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale took Zinedine Zidane's men to a 2-1 victory.
On the eve of the biggest match of each of his players’ lives, Al Jazira manager Henk Ten Cate joked that they would have to park three buses in front of their goal to stop Real Madrid. And then maybe borrow a couple more, just to give themselves a chance.
In the end, all they actually needed was one Ali Khaseif. While the UAE national team goalkeeper was on the field, nothing that Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Isco, or any other Galactico you could care to mention could find a way past.
Khaseif’s heroism didn’t need a subplot. Fatefully, though, it got one, in the form of a first-half thigh strain. He battled on gamely, repelling everything that came near him, until he could last no longer.
On 51 minutes, Ten Cate was forced to substitute his keeper-captain. Given how much work the goalkeeper had got through till that point, it might have been exhaustion that did for him, were it not the thigh problem that got him first.
Within two minutes, Ronaldo had levelled Romarinho’s earlier opener.
The tide had turned for good. Maybe even Khaseif himself would have been powerless to halt the inevitable. Gareth Bale ended the home fairytale with his first touch of the ball, less than a minute after coming on for Madrid with nine minutes left.
Ten Cate brimmed with pride. The Dutchman was happy to acknowledge his side rode their luck, and that, in fact, the tournament probably ended up with the final it deserved.
“I am really happy with the performance of my team,” Ten Cate said. “Of course, we had to defend a lot, because the difference on the field is too big.
“I am really proud of my team for the way they fought, the time they stayed in the game, and of course you need some luck. Of course, our goalkeeper was really brilliant in the first half.
“I am sorry that he got injured and had to go out in the second half. But this is what you need on those rare occasions you play on a stage like this.
“Our tactics worked excellently. We had three or four chances to score a goal. We knew they were going to be open, and we realised it was not going to be easy for them if it was 2-0, because time is going against you.
“They [Madrid] weren’t very lucky, to be honest, but that is football. I am very proud of my team.
“I think we did an amazing job with the small club that we are. We put the UAE on the map, and I think this is something special.”
It might have been so different, of course, had Video Assistant Referee not ruled out a Mbark Boussoufa goal, because of offside, just after half time.
The Spanish champions might have been fearing the worst, surrendering their title in the most remarkable circumstances. Jazira might have lost the match, but they won the respect of their opposition.
“They did really well,” Luka Modric, who was named man of the match, said. “We watched some highlights from their previous game, and we knew they would sit deep and try to punish us on the counter attack, which they did once.
“I think they did well. They fought well, and they are a good team.”
Updated: December 17, 2017 06:34 PM