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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Al Jazira remain in Asian Champions League hunt after 'disappointing' goalless draw against Tractor Sazi

Abu Dhabi club are three points behind Group A leaders Al Ahli at the midway stage of the campaign

Al Jazira, in red, and Tractor Sazi could not be separated during their Asian Champions League Group A clash on Monday. Nezar Balout / AFP
Al Jazira, in red, and Tractor Sazi could not be separated during their Asian Champions League Group A clash on Monday. Nezar Balout / AFP

Midway through their Asian Champions League Group A campaign, UAE champions Al Jazira remain in the hunt to progress.

The Abu Dhabi club, struggling in the Arabian Gulf League, stay second in the continental standings, in part courtesy of Monday night’s 0-0 draw at home to Iran’s Tractor Sazi, in part thanks to Al Gharafa’s late equaliser against Al Ahli Jeddah.

As it is, Jazira sit locked on four points with third-placed Gharafa, three off leaders Ahli with three games to play. Nevertheless, the stalemate frustrated coach Henk ten Cate, as has the recent criticism. Once more, Jazira put out a relatively patched up side. Among others, they were missing Mbark Boussoufa, the suspended playmaker.

“We are disappointed, of course,” Ten Cate said. “I thought we would take three points, but we didn’t. We had too many players not really in the game. That is why we didn’t win – it is very frustrating.

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“On the other hand, given the circumstances with players available, I think it is a good result. We cannot continuously work miracles. People on television say I constantly change as I want to leave the club. This is not true.

“I have to work with the material I have available. And this is what I had available. We do everything possible to win games and get the best team on the field. Unfortunately, due to different circumstances, and I don’t want to mention them again, we cannot always win.

“I am really, really angry about this [criticism from pundits]. I gave this club two-and-a-half years of my life.”

Played in front of a sparse crowd at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, the match was far from vintage. Still, Tractor could have gone ahead either side of half time. In fact, they should have before the break, but Ehsan Pahlavan dragged wide his shot when through on goal in stoppage time.

Not long into the second half, he found himself one-on-one once more with Ali Khaseif, yet fired straight at the onrushing Jazira goalkeeper. On the hour, midfielder Danial Esmaeilifar poked past Khaseif, and the hosts’ post too.

At the other end, Romarinho could not find a way beyond Tractor goalkeeper Jordi Almeida – the angle was tight – while Ahmed Al Attas sent a rasping shot inches over the crossbar.

Moments later, Khaseif repelled a similar drive from Arsalan Motahhari. In the 75th minute, Ali Mabkhout tested Almeida with a free-kick. In injury time, substitute Salem Aleedi curled an effort towards goal, only for Almeida to palm away.

Really, that was as good as it got. A goalless draw, coupled with the group’s other result on the night, ensured there remains all to play for.

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