x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Pro League: Relegation survival path 'not a bed of roses' says Al Shaab coach

Al Shaab have tough schedule but so do Dibba on their heels, writes Ahmed Rizvi.

Al Shaab players travel to Al Dhafra tonight but face stronger rivals, including Al Ain, in the next four rounds.
Al Shaab players travel to Al Dhafra tonight but face stronger rivals, including Al Ain, in the next four rounds.

DUBAI // This past Sunday, after Dibba Al Fujairah's 3-2 victory at Al Wasl, Abdullah Misfir saluted the efforts of his team, but looked more concerned about Al Shaab's game next day.

"We may be level with Al Shaab now, but we don't know what they are going to do against Ajman," the Dibba manager said.

With the two teams level on 14 points, four ahead of bottom-placed Kalba, Misfir must have been praying for an Ajman win.

Instead, Shaab took the game 2-1 to keep their noses ahead in the cat-and-mouse relegation battle between the two sides.

It is story that has been repeated through the second half of the Pro League season.

When Dibba beat Al Dhafra to draw level, Shaab defeated Misfir's side next week to keep their three-point advantage.

In the 17th week, Dibba managed to stun Al Ain and then split points with Al Jazira in the 19th week. Shaab drew with Al Nasr in the 19th week and then defeated Kalba and Ajman to move ahead of Dibba once again.

"Dibba's win over Wasl had put us under pressure, but I am really pleased with how my players reacted," said Marius Sumudica, the Shaab coach. "We succeeded through our determination, despite missing some key players."

Sumudica will be hoping for a similar commitment when Shaab travel to Al Dhafra on Friday, but bigger challenges lie ahead of his team in the final four rounds of the league. They will face Al Ain next, then Al Jazira, Al Wasl and Al Shabab.

Dibba, who host Al Nasr on Friday night, have two tough games as well - against Al Ahli and then Shabab - but their final two matches are against Kalba and Ajman.

"We are aware that the path to our survival is not a bed of roses," Sumudica said. "We will have to double our efforts in the coming matches and show the kind of fighting spirit that this club is famous for.

"Of the 15 points still remaining in the league, if we can six of them, I believe it will be enough for our survival in the Pro League for next season. We will be looking to get three of those points in this game [against Al Dhafra] and I am confident my players will do their best."

Confidence is high in the Dibba camp as well, and Misfir has promised a fight until the end.

"It is not easy for us because we are not playing our home matches at home," Misfir said. "But we are trying our best and the win against Wasl will be a huge morale boost for the players.

"We have done well in the second half of the season, taking points against Dhafra, Al Ain, Jazira and Wasl. In those matches, we have shown that we are a good team and we can play against the big sides.

"Now we just have to make sure we keep this momentum going. We should not worry about losing because in the past, I believe my players struggled because they were scared of losing."




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