x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Strong second half fuels Al Shabab win over Emirates

Shabab were a goal down but the hosts responded with a fine second-half performance to seal victory through goals from Mohammed Marzooq, Nasser Masood and Adeilson, reports John McAuley.

Al Shabab’s Adel Abdullah, left, avoids a tackle while his teammate Carlos Villanueva looks on during their match against Emirates on Friday night. Al Ittihad
Al Shabab’s Adel Abdullah, left, avoids a tackle while his teammate Carlos Villanueva looks on during their match against Emirates on Friday night. Al Ittihad

Al Shabab 3 Emirates 1

Al Shabab Marzooq 54’, Masood 81’, Adeilson 90’

Emirates Al Shehhi 32’

Man of the match Adeilson (Shabab)

DUBAI // As far as welcomes go, Paulo Comelli’s would be best described as rather cool.

A few weeks back, the Brazilian became the latest manager through the Arabian Gulf League’s revolving door, when he was drafted in as Eid Baroot’s successor at Emirates.

Such is life as an emergency back-up in the UAE top flight, that Comelli was afforded little, if no, time to acquaint himself with fresh surroundings.

To be fair, he should be used to the nomadic existence, given he has ferried his coaching caravan right across his sprawling homeland, parking up at a travel-sickness-inducing 41 different clubs in 23 years.

As the perceived saviour to Emirates’ stuttering season – fourth from bottom on arrival, they had suffered six defeats from nine league matches – no doubt he expected the red-carpet treatment at his newest location. Yet it has been anything but.

First up, a President’s Cup clash against Al Ahli, the 2013/14 campaign’s pacemakers. Then a league trip to Al Jazira, one of the country’s best-supported clubs. Two matches, two defeats.

A glance at the fixture list would not have lifted spirits, either. Last week, Emirates entertained an Al Wasl side who had just inflicted Ahli’s first reverse this term, while seven days later they would travel to Al Shabab, the team ranked second in the standings.

If a restorative victory against Wasl provided some much-needed comfort, it was only fleeting: last night Comelli suffered a third loss in four matches as his dogged Emirates eventually went down 3-1 to Shabab. Season’s greetings, eh?

“It’s a good thing to start to play strong teams because then you can really evaluate your team,” a defiant Comelli said.

“There’s no doubt we need more work because there’s a lack of experience here and a lot to do. We’ll see in the next games when we’ll face teams in a similar position to ours.”

While Emirates’ concerns are concentrated at the tail end of the table, Shabab’s worries are at its opposite end. The win, achieved without suspended duo of Edgar Bruno and Azizbek Haydarov, keeps them safely in second, the closest challengers to Ahli’s title charge.

Shabab had actually gone a goal down – to Abdullah Al Shehhi’s first-half strike – but the hosts responded with a fine second-half performance to seal victory through goals from Mohammed Marzooq, Nasser Masood and Adeilson.

So four points still separate the division’s top two clubs, but for Marcos Paqueta, the Shabab coach, he is looking backwards, not up in front.

His team are happily marooned in second, three points ahead of third-placed Jazira.

“Our situation is really comfortable, because we have a little cushion of points that maybe we can lose derbies or bigger games against Ahli or Jazira and still be in our position,” he said.

What Comelli would give to trade places.

jmcauley@thenational.ae