x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

'Novelty' of Maradona and Wasl has worn off Jazira

Lucas Neill conceded that Al Jazira were curious about what it would be like to play against an Al Wasl team coached by Diego Maradona, but now that they have defeated them 4-3 in an Etisalat Cup game in September, the novelty has worn off.

The novelty of facing Diego Maradona, right, and his Al Wasl side has worn off for Franky Vercauteren, left, and Al Jazira.
The novelty of facing Diego Maradona, right, and his Al Wasl side has worn off for Franky Vercauteren, left, and Al Jazira.

ABU DHABI // Lucas Neill conceded that Al Jazira were curious about what it would be like to play against an Al Wasl team coached by Diego Maradona.

Now that he and Jazira know, having defeated Wasl 4-3 in an Etisalat Cup game in September, they can concentrate on the challenge of a top-of-the-table game tomorrow, he said.

"The novelty has worn off because we played them a month and a half ago," the Australian said.

"For us, as players, it's always nice to see heroes and meet heroes, but there's a job to do whether it be against the favourite player when you were growing up or somebody you've never heard of.

"This is an important game, and we want to win it."

Neill said the bigger attraction is that Wasl are among three teams on seven points, along with Jazira, the Pro League champions.

"It is another hard game, another good challenge, another good test of Al Jazira," Neill said.

"These are two teams that clearly have ambitions to win the title this year, and to have a game this important so early in the season is big."

Franky Vercauteren, the Jazira coach, said that some of his players have been talking about Wasl since his team defeated Baniyas 3-1 on Friday.

"Even before the game, when they saw [that Ajman held Wasl 1-1] on TV, they said it was a good result," Vercauteren said. "I said it's a good result if we win. I don't like talk like that before a game.

"After the match, they were asking about the training and what we would do before the match, so they were interested in the game as much as possible."

Vercauteren celebrated his 55th birthday on Friday, two days ahead of Maradona's 51st birthday, on Sunday.

When a reporter told Vercauteren that Maradona's players had celebrated their coach's birthday, he smiled and said: "Maybe they celebrated mine, too, but I was not invited."

"I'm not worried about who will get the birthday present at the match tomorrow," he said. "The most important thing is the winning club. I am not the most important."

 

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Dubai upbeat despite form

One point from three Pro League games “does not reflect the outstanding performance” of the Dubai players, according to Hamad Mohammed Matar, the director of the team.

Dubai, who stunned Al Wasl 5-0 in the Etisalat Cup, have lost to Emirates and Al Ain and their lone point comes from a draw with Al Shabab.

“Things will be better once we get our first win and we need to get that in the next match [against Al Nasr on Thursday],” Matar said.

 

Al Nasr back coach Zenga

Al Nasr have reconfirmed their faith in the club’s coaching staff, headed by Walter Zenga, the Italian legend, despite their poor start to the Pro League season.

Nasr, who finished third last term, have only point from three league matches, but Ahmed Hashim Khoury, the vice-chairman of the club, said: “We believe in Zenga and will support him with everything we have. We are not going to make a hasty decisions.”

 

Two wins from two for UAE

Salem Ali, the Al Jazira midfielder, scored the only goal of the game Monday as the UAE Under 20 team made it two wins out of two in their Asian Cup qualifying campaign with a victory over Lebanon.

Ali struck after 30 minutes at Al Fujairah for Eid Baroot’s side who won their first game, on Saturday, 1-0 against Palestine.

The UAE play Yemen Wednesday while their final Group D game is against Syria on Friday.