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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

'Everything is possible': Al Ain down but not out of Asian Champions League contention, says Zoran Mamic

Manager of newly-crowned Arabian Gulf League champions says he and his team are determined to make a comeback after being beaten 4-2 in first leg of last-16 tie against Al Duhail

Al Ain's Omar Abdulrahman, centre, will be crucial to his team's chances of qualifying for the last eight. Karim Sahib / AFP
Al Ain's Omar Abdulrahman, centre, will be crucial to his team's chances of qualifying for the last eight. Karim Sahib / AFP

Zoran Mamic says Al Ain must believe “everything is possible” if they are to turn around their Asian Champions League last-16 tie next week and reach the quarter-finals.

The UAE champions, runners-up on the continent two years ago, were defeated 4-2 by Al Duhail at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on Tuesday night.

Al Ain were 4-0 down after 55 minutes, but goals from substitutes Ahmed Khalil and Ibrahim Diaky gave them a slither of hope ahead of next Tuesday's return leg.

Nevertheless, Al Ain will understand the difficulty of the task that awaits. Duhail, the Qatari Stars League champions, have won their past 18 matches, including seven victories from seven games in this year’s Champion League.

However, Mamic attempted to accentuate the positives following the loss, as Al Ain look for solutions to overcome their rivals in Doha.

"We have conceded four goals, but we managed to reduce the gap between the teams,” the Croat manager said. “We were close to scoring the third goal, but we know that there are 90 minutes remaining. We will show our best, erase the mistakes we made and increase our concentration because everything is possible in football.”

Al Ain were poor for most of the first half against Duhail, and there was an acceptance that recent success had caused the team to lose their focus somewhat.

Last Thursday, Al Ain landed the President’s Cup to go along with the Arabian Gulf League title they secured last month, with one round to spare. Ending almost three years without any silverware, it was the first time in the club’s history they had captured both trophies in the same season.

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Now Al Ain need an incredibly strong performance in the return match at Duhail to progress to the last eight and thus end the season on a high. They will seek some comfort in that they are unbeaten on the road in this year’s Champions League. In fact, the last time Al Ain played in Doha - less than one month ago - they defeated Al Rayyan 4-1.

"It is certain that our task will not be easy in the second leg, but we have already scored four goals at the end of the group stage away from home,” Mamic said. “We only have to be optimistic and confident in our ability to return having qualified for the quarter-final.

“I trust in the capabilities of my team to come back from this. We have five training sessions before the return game. We will improve our situation and correct our mistakes so that we can achieve our goals.”

Al Ain will be without winger Caio for the second leg after the Brazilian was given a straight red on Tuesday for kicking out at an opponent. Yet they can welcome back Egyptian Hussein El Shahat and UAE defender Mohanad Salem. Both players sat out the first leg through suspension.