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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Zoran Mamic blames 'lack of focus' for Al Ain's Asian Champions League exit

UAE side crashed out of the competition on Monday night following a 3-0 aggregate defeat to Saudi Arabian club Al Hilal.

Al Ain, in white and purple, exited the Asian Champions League at the quarter-final stage on Monday evening following a 3-0 aggregate defeat to Al Hilal. Courtesy Al Ain FC
Al Ain, in white and purple, exited the Asian Champions League at the quarter-final stage on Monday evening following a 3-0 aggregate defeat to Al Hilal. Courtesy Al Ain FC

Zoran Mamic bemoaned Al Ain’s lack of cutting edge as the UAE side were sent crashing from the Asian Champions League on Monday.

The Garden City club, runners-up last year, were defeated 3-0 by Al Hilal in the second leg of their quarter-final, losing the tie 3-0 on aggregate. Carlos Eduardo, the Saudi Arabian side’s Brazilian midfielder, grabbed a hat-trick for the hosts in Riyadh.

Al Ain had been the better team in the first 40 minutes at the King Fahd International Stadium, but summer signing Marcus Berg and Brazilian Douglas spurned two good chances. Hilal made them pay, scoring twice in four minutes before half time, with the Riyadh club securing the victory, and a place in the semi-finals, midway through the second half.

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It rounded off an incredibly disappointing night for Al Ain, although Mamic must now pick up his players for the beginning of the new Arabian Gulf League season this weekend. Al Ain open their 2017/18 account on Saturday at home to Dubai rivals Al Wasl.

"My team was the best on the pitch and the one dominating of the game,” said Mamic, who joined the club weeks before the beginning of the Champions League group stages. “But the team that cannot translate the opportunities they create into goals at this stage of the competition, they certainly will not qualify for the semi-finals.

“We did not show the required level in the second half and did not carry out our duties on the pitch. We lacked the focus so we couldn’t turn the result around in our favour. In the second half we had no choice but to attack and so we left spaces they could exploit.

“The loss is clear, and is a result of not taking the chances we created, in addition to our lack of focus in the second half.”

Al Ain remain the only Emirati side to have won the Champions League, but they have thus far failed to repeat that 2003 success. Last year, they reached the final only to be defeated 3-2 on aggregate by South Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.

Hilal, meanwhile, are aiming to clinch the title in its current guise for the first time. Ramon Diaz’s side, the reigning Saudi champions, got to the final in 2014, but lost 1-0 on aggregate to Australia’s Western Sydney Wanderers.

Eduardo joined Hilal the following year, and has gone on to lift the Saudi Super Cup, the Crown Prince Cup, the Saudi Pro League and the Kings Cup. The latter two arrived in May - he scored the winner in the cup final - meaning the Champions League represents the one trophy missing from Eduardo's collection. Understandably, he is intent on completing the set.

"I am so determined in winning the Asian Champions League title with Al Hilal because it is the only tournament I have not been able to achieve with my team,” he said. “I am well aware that the fans of the club target the continental title.”