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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Al Shamsi confident that Al Ain Theebs can build on strong start to claim first Emirates Hockey League title

The league leaders have won all six of their games so far, the latest one this week seeing them defeat Dubai Mighty Camels 6-3.

The Al Ain Theebs, in white, were 6-3 victors over the Dubai Mighty Camels in the Emirates Hockey League on Monday. Navin Khianey for The National
The Al Ain Theebs, in white, were 6-3 victors over the Dubai Mighty Camels in the Emirates Hockey League on Monday. Navin Khianey for The National

Omar Ali Al Shamsi is confident Al Ain Theebs can go on and win their first Emirates Hockey League title this season and avoid experiencing the disappointment that befell them last season.

Theebs beat Dubai Mighty Camels 6-3 on Monday to make it six wins out of six this season.

They started last season equally well, but ended up as runners-up as they were overhauled by Dubai White Bears, who strengthened their squad by recruiting new players in the second half of the league.

Al Shamsi, the Theebs captain, believes they can go one better this time around with the start they have had and better strategy.

“It’s still a long way to go in the league but we certainly are happy to be in this position,” said the Emirati who is also the vice-captain of the UAE national team.

“We know the strengths of all the teams. Some teams that were strong last season are struggling but we expect some surprises in the second half of the league from January.

“We were in a similar position last season but the other teams recruited new players strengthened their squads in the second half of the league. And we were caught unawares.

“Again, there is a lot of time to think about our own strategy for the second half of the league. This time, however, we will think more seriously in bringing in new players, if required.”

According Al Shamsi, they will lose two of their key Emirati players for military services in January. Ahmed Al Dhaheri, the goalkeeper, and defender Sultan Al Shariani.

“Ahmed is the best goalkeeper so far in the league,” he said. “We’ll have to assess the injuries to other players and we’ll see what needs to be done in the second half of the league.”

Theebs came back twice from behind to clinch victory over the Camels at the Dubai Ice Rink on Monday.

“It was a spectacular and exciting game everyone at the Dubai Mall enjoyed,” said Al Shamsi.

“Even the other team (Camels) players and some of the fans mentioned that to us after the game. Both teams played spectacular hockey and we are pleased we managed to win.”

Ross MacMillan put the Camels in front on the 12th minute and Vetali Savko struck the equaliser shortly afterwards.

Patrik Valcak, who set-up the opening goal, regained the lead for the Camels but goals from Artur Zainutdinov and Artsiom Karkotski in quick succession put the visitors in front at the end of the second period.

Karkotski and Zainutdinov were on target again in the third period as Theebs consolidate their lead. Crt Slavec pulled one back for the Camels before Khalifa Al Mahrouqi rounded off the victory.

In the other games in this week's action, Abu Dhabi Scorpions maintained third spot after a 7-5 result over Dubai Vipers and Abu Dhabi Storms edged out the Dubai White Bears 8-6 for their first win in six games.