x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Oladi shot in the arm for Shabab

Three days before their AFC Champions League clash against Bunyodkor, Al Shabab gave themselves a timely boost with a 6-0 rout of Al Khaleej.

DUBAI // Three days before their AFC Champions League clash against Bunyodkor, Al Shabab gave themselves a timely boost with a 6-0 rout of Al Khaleej in a 16th round match of the Pro League on Sunday. The Slashers cruised to the biggest win by any team in the Pro League this season, with Mehrdad Oladi scoring twice (59th and 67th minute) and Salem Saad (40th), Bader Abdulrehman (85th), Mohammed Nasser (86th) and Waleed Abbas (90th) contributing one apiece.

Toninho Cerezo was delighted with the performance, but the coach warned his side against getting carried away ahead of Wednesday's match against the Uzbekistan powerhouses. "We need to keep our feet on the ground," he said. "We have to work hard and stay focused for the next match against Bunyodkor. We will be playing against an excellent team and your best chance in the AFC Champions League is when you play at home, so we need to capitalise."

The win catapulted Shabab from eighth in the league table to fourth with 21 points, 15 behind leaders Al Ahli. With six rounds to go, the defending champions are probably out of the danger zone. Cerezo disagreed and said: "Nothing is finished yet. We still have a long way to go in the Pro League. Mathematically, we might be in safe waters and can relax a bit, but we need to continue the hard work.

"This was a big game for us and an important win. When you beat teams like Al Khaleej, who are behind you, a win is worth six points. You get three points and you deny three points to your opponents, increasing the distance between the teams. "We have beaten Dhafra and Khaleej. We next play Ajman, which will be another big match. We also have Al Nasr and Al Wasl ahead. So there is still a long road ahead and we need to keep our feet on the ground."

Four of Shabab's goals came after the Khaleej goalkeeper Jaber Jassim was sent off in the 66th minute, following a tackle on Oladi inside the box. "Losing the keeper was like losing two players," said the coach Basheer Othman, whose side remain at the bottom of the table and look destined for relegation. "We had to take out one player to send in the second goalkeeper and that really hurt our plans. After that, we conceded four goals.

"The result looks bad, but this is football. You win sometimes, you lose at other times." arizvi@thenational.ae