x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Shabab back in with a shout

For Toninho Cerezo, getting the three points against Al Wahda was just a bonus. It was the way Al Shabab played that gave the coach the greatest pleasure.

Toninho Cerezo was delighted with Shabab's win.
Toninho Cerezo was delighted with Shabab's win.

DUBAI // For Toninho Cerezo, getting the three points against Al Wahda was just a bonus. It was the way Al Shabab played that gave the coach the greatest pleasure. Shabab looked a different side to the one that lost 1-0 at Ajman in their last league game. They were high in energy and commitment and held off waves of Wahda assaults to win 2-1.

"This is the real Shabab team and they showed the real football they can play," said Cerezo, who guided his side to the league title last season. "I congratulate my boys. They showed a lot of initiative on the field and stayed focused until the final whistle. They were talking to each other and charging each other up. "In this game, we saw the team improve in many areas that we were lacking in; just small details that were affecting our performance in the last few games.

"This is our biggest gain from the game - the three points are just a bonus." The victory was Shabab's first in five games after having collected just a single point from the previous four matches. It takes their tally to 10 from eight games and improves their position slightly in the championship race, though they still dwell in the lower half. Issa Mohammed and Suroor Salem scored for Shabab, with Ismail Matar getting Wahda's goal.

But the real hero of the game was the Shabab goalkeeper Ismail Rabea, who produced a string of outstanding stops. He stood firm as the visitors went all out to breach the Shabab rearguard. "In the second half, the best player on the field was our goalkeeper and that proves Wahda were relentless in attack," said Cerezo. "They created a lot of chances, but our goalkeeper was outstanding and made the difference in the game."

As Cerezo toasted his keeper and team, the Wahda coach Ahmed Abdulhaleem was disappointed after a second consecutive league defeat. "We didn't deserve to lose," said the Egyptian. "We played really well. This was one of our best performances of the season, but luck was not on our side. I hope that will change in the upcoming games. "I don't think you can fault any player. They played very well and gave it their all. We had come here to win and created a lot more chances, but Shabab took the chances they got and scored two goals."

Abdulhaleem also believed his team were denied a penalty in the closing stages of the game when Alecsandro Barbosa's cross hit the outstretched arms of Abdullah Darwesh. "I was not very sure when the incident happened, but after seeing the television replays I have no doubt," he said. "The referee made a few poor decisions, which went against us and had a bearing on the final outcome of the game."

Wahda have now picked up just one point from their last three games, but still remain in the top four with 11 points and Abdulhaleem urged his fans not to give up hope. "We are still in the race for the championship," he said. "We should not give up. We need to continue working hard in training and not lose hope." arizvi@thenational.ae