x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Emirates spring shock win over Al Rayyan

Ghazi Ghrairi, the Emirates coach, said the early goal scored was key to his side's confidence in beating Qatari giants Al Rayyan.

RAS AL KHAIMAH // As far as mismatches go, last night's Asian Champions League (ACL) game between Emirates and Al Rayyan would figure somewhere in the top of that list.

Rayyan have won their domestic league seven times and are currently third in the Qatar League; Emirates are languishing in Division One, with five defeats and a draw in their last six games. But Davids do slay Goliaths and the unheralded Emirates side did just that with a 2-0 win over their fancied opponents.

Nabil Daoudi opened the scoring in the fifth minute and Hadef al Zaabi made it 2-0 in the 23rd, to make it a memorable debut in Asian football's premier club competition. As the referee blew the final whistle, it was celebration time with music blaring from the loudspeakers. The players received a standing ovation and the fans looked in the mood for lengthy celebrations.

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"Congrats to my team and the fans," said Ghazi Ghrairi, the Emirates coach. "We won because we did not allow our levels to drop after the first goal.

"The first goal gave them the confidence and none of the players looked afraid. Going forward, not just in the Champions League but in the domestic competitions, I think this result will be good for us.

"I am really happy to see the fans come out in numbers. I thank them and I hope they will continue to support us. All of Ras al Khaimah was waiting for this match."

Ras al Khaimah is a quaint, sleepy town, dotted by hills, with mountains standing guard in the foreground. The entire population of the emirate is just a little over 260,000, so two stands across the length of the Emirates club, with a capacity for 5,800, seemed apt.

The club, who earned the right to play in the ACL after winning the President's Cup last season, were, however, forced to build an additional 2,000-seater stand and install a giant screen as per the directives of the Asian Football Confederation; they needed those additions to meet the structural requirements of participation.

Of course, that stand remained half-full through the course of the game; most of the seats in the older stands were, however, taken as the fans turned out in numbers - about 6,000 - to support their side.

As the game started, though, the home side showed no signs of the misfortune that has hampered them in recent times. Amer Deeb had the fans on their feet as his curling effort in the third minute tested the Rayyan goalkeeper.

Two minutes later, the stadium erupted as Daoudi bulged the net with a stinging volley.

Hadef al Zaabi doubled Emirates' tally with a header after Mohammed al Belooshi had nodded a corner back his way.

"We made two really naive mistakes early in the game and had a problem afterwards," said Paulo Autuori De Mello, the Rayyan coach. "When you make such mistakes, you have to pay a price."

 

arizvi@thenational.ae