x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Winning start for Cerezo at Al Ain

Toninho Cerezo began his new job with Al Ain on a winning note, but the performance was not too impressive against Baniyas in the Etisalat Cup.

AL AIN // Toninho Cerezo began his new job with Al Ain on a winning note, but the performance was not too impressive against Baniyas in the Etisalat Cup. Hazza Salem's fifth-minute goal was enough for Cerezo's men to stretch their lead in Group B to nine points from three games after a 1-0 win on a muddy pitch at the Tahnoun bin Mohammed Stadium in Al Ain on Sunday night, following the heavy downpour experienced throughout the country, .

The former Al Shabab coach Cerezo, who is in charge of the team for the remainder of the season following Winfried Schaefer's sacking, insisted the result was more important after three successive defeats. "We ended a run of three defeats and that was important," said Cerezo. "The pitch was not conducive to playing a good open game, particularly when the players are not used to playing under such treacherous under-foot conditions.

"Baniyas are one of the strongest teams, but we created more chances and should have won by a bigger margin. Obviously we have a lot of work ahead but this is a pretty good start. We are playing for two trophies and my job is to try and win them both." Al Ain had lost three games in a row before last night. Defeats to Ajman, in the President's Cup, and Al Wahda in the Pro League cost Schaefer his job. They then lost 3-1 to Al Wasl under caretaker coach Rasheed Mahmoud in the league last week.

The Baniyas coach Lutfi al Benzarti rested some key players ahead of Sunday's league game with Wahda. He said: "We still did well and we are not disappointed from the defeat as we can still qualify for the next round of this competition." Al Ain head Group B, which also includes Baniyas, Ajman and Al Shabab. The top two teams from the three groups and the two best third-placed teams advance to the quarter-finals.

apassela@thenational.ae