x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Victory over rivals gives Vercauteren title belief

Al Jazira coach relieved after mid-season slump had seen the defending champions relinquish their lead in the Pro League table.

Al Wahda supporters, above, cheer on their players, but they ended up on the losing side against a powerful Al Jazira.
Al Wahda supporters, above, cheer on their players, but they ended up on the losing side against a powerful Al Jazira.

ABU DHABI // Franky Vercauteren, the Al Jazira coach, breathed a sigh of relief as his side shook off their mid-season wobbles and fought their way back into the title race.

Their 4-2 victory over city rivals Al Wahda on Thursday night allowed them to leapfrog over Al Shabab and Al Nasr into second place in the Pro League table, four points behind Al Ain who were held to a draw by Shabab on Wednesday.

It was the defending champions' first win in four games.

"I don't look at the other team's results but after Al Ain's 1-1 draw in the previous night I regard this win had more substance as we now closer behind Al Ain," Vercauteren said.

"It was an important win and keeps our title hopes alive. We showed we can fight.

"It is normal for it to get difficult in the defence when we play with two forwards and four attacking midfielders."

Lucas Neill opened the scoring for Jazira five minutes into the second half, but Wahda's reply was swift, Fernando Baiano connecting with a Mahmoud Khamis cross a minute later.

Hugo, the Brazilian midfielder, intercepted a back pass from Neill to Khalid Essa, the goalkeeper, to give the visitors a 2-1 lead but Ali Makhbout levelled the scores again when Ricardo Oliveira controlled a long ball with his chest and set-up the Emirati forward for a close range shot.

Wahda played one of their best games but a needless penalty conceded by Abdulla Jasem, in the first minute of his arrival on the pitch as a substitute, allowed Jazira to restore their advantage when Matias Delgado scored from the spot.

With Wahda flying forward at the end in search of an equaliser, Jazira wrapped up the points when Delgado played the substitute Bare through to make it 4-2

Josef Hickersberger, the Wahda coach, said. "We looked good for a long period of the game. And the first 60 minutes, the tactics were good."

The Austrian acknowledged his substitution went wrong. He said: "My changes were not good. It was a nightmare for us. Abdulla Jasem gave away a penalty in the very first minute he got on to the pitch. "I wanted to win this game. I saw we could have because we were the more offensive side. But it didn't work the way we wanted at the end." With the win, Jazira took their tally to 20 while Wahda remain in fifth on 16.

apassela@thenational.ae

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