x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Paulo Bonamigo happy Al Shabab have moved on from Maradona incident

The Pro League club look to get their Asian Champions League campaign back on track against Saudi club Al Hilal.

Paulo Bonamigo, the Al Shabab coach, is wary of the challenge of tonight's Asian Champions League opponents Al Hilal.
Paulo Bonamigo, the Al Shabab coach, is wary of the challenge of tonight's Asian Champions League opponents Al Hilal.

DUBAI // Al Shabab return to action tonight for the first time since Diego Maradona stormed into the crowd to confront their fans. Their coach insists the incident has not distracted their preparations for a crucial Asian Champions League match tonight with a side whose manager is a former coach of Al Ahli.

Both Shabab and Al Wasl escaped punishment by the Football Association for the incident last Thursday, which saw Maradona remonstrate with Shabab fans who he alleged abused his wife and guests.

Paulo Bonamigo, the Shabab coach, is pleased the focus now switches to the home game with Al Hilal, the Saudi side managed by Ivan Hasek, who was fired by Ahli in November.

"It was an incident that happened outside the field," Bonamigo said. "These things happen sometimes, but it does not affect the players.

"The players have been fully focused on this match against Hilal. We consider them the best team in the group and they have the best chance of qualifying for the next phase. So we will have to play at our maximum abilities, physically and tactically, to obtain the three points."

Shabab have one point from their first two Group D matches, following a goalless home draw against Al Gharafa and a 6-1 defeat by Persepolis in Tehran.

Shabab's hopes of resuscitating their Champions League campaign have been hit by a season-ending injury to Carlos Villanueva, their Chile playmaker, while Azizbek Haydarov has not recovered from an injury he suffered in the Persepolis match. The striker Essa Obaid will also miss tonight's game with injury.

Hasek will be aware of Shabab's qualities having worked in the UAE for five years, but he will not have fond memories of his last meeting with the club. It was defeat to Shabab in the final of the Gulf Clubs Championship that led to him being fired by Ahli.

"This is a different game," he said. "I am with Al Hilal now, one of the biggest teams in this region. We know what Shabab are capable of and we respect them. We have to be focused because, as we have realised from our first two matches, a single mistake in the Champions League can prove costly.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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