x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Valdivia delivers perfect apology

The magician weathers rough stuff from Al Shabab to produce a match-winning display in a 2-0 win for Al Ain.

Al Ain's Jorge Valdivia holds of a Shabab tackler.
Al Ain's Jorge Valdivia holds of a Shabab tackler.

AL AIN // Forget flowers, nothing says "I'm sorry" like two goals and a man-of-the-match performance, which is exactly what Jorge Valdivia served up for his delighted Al Ain coach Winfried Schaefer against Al Shabab on Friday. Making only his second appearance in an Ain shirt because of injuries and arriving late back from international duty, Valdivia opened the scoring in this 2-0 victory with a superb free-kick before showing excellent control and poise for his second.

Schaefer, understandably, was gushing in his praise for the Chilean playmaker. "I don't like to single out one player," he said. "But Valdivia was fantastic. The whole league should feel very lucky to have a player like Valdivia. But, of course, we are the luckiest." Toninho Cerezo's side had no answers to deal with the magical South American, who dictated the Ain attack. The defending Etisalat League champions dished out some rough treatment in a match they rarely threatened, with Valdivia their prime target. The Shabab coach conceded the Ain captain was undoubtedly the best player on the pitch, but became animated when it was suggested his players set out to deliberately injure him.

"Valdivia is clever. The reason we were always fouling him is because we were always second to the tackle," said Cerezo. "He likes to go down a lot. He falls like he is in the theatre. It is all part of his show. "Referees need to look closely to see if it is a foul or not. "But Valdivia was the key player in the match. The rest of the midfield also played well, but he was the difference," he concluded.

Schaefer was quick to jump to the defence of his star player and praised the match official for the way he handled the game. "If you could see him [Valdivia] in the dressing room now he has ice packs every where," he said. "It was a big match between two big teams. There were lots of fouls so, for me, the referee was the best man on the field. He always remained in charge." @Email:sluckings@thenational.ae