Al Jazira looking to restore pride with President's Cup glory

Denzil Pinto 28/05/2016
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Jong-woo (l) wants to end the season on a high.

The South Korea midfielder has had a frustrating first campaign at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, netting just once in 37 appearances since his summer move from Chinese Super League outfit Guangzhou R&F.

Having finished a distant seventh in the Arabian Gulf League with Jazira, the 27-year-old can claim his first piece of silverware if they prevail against six-time winners Al Ain in Sunday’s final.

While he’s been satisfied with his own performances, Park is determined to play a big role and see the Pride of Abu Dhabi clinch just their third President’s Cup.

“I came straight from China and haven’t had any rest. I haven’t shown my best yet and it’s not been a very good season for me,” he said. “I hope it (a good performance) comes against Al Ain, but I must work hard.”

Since the AGL season finished on May 8, the Pride of Abu Dhabi have found their self-belief in this competition. They twice came from behind to defeat Sharjah on penalties, before Ali Mabkhout’s hat-trick was enough to beat Ahli 3-2 in the semi-finals.

With AGL runners-up Al Ain also searching for their first major trophy this term, Park remains wary of the Garden City club, having lost twice to their rivals in the league this season.

“They have some very good players and obviously Omar Abdulrahman is a threat while Douglas and Danilo Asprillo are quite formidable,” he said. “We know they are dangerous as a unit.”

Park is still hurting from their dismal league showings that saw Abel Braga replaced in December by Henk ten Cate after three wins in 16 games and the South Korean has urged his team-mates to focus on stopping Zlatko Dalic’s troops.

“No-one expected us to do badly in the league but it’s happened,” he said. “We must forget about it because if we want to win back our pride, we have to win this final.

“The game is a very important for us. This has to be one of the most important games of the season and it’s one that we must win.”

Meanwhile, Park’s team-mate Kenwyne Jones has played down suggestions that Al Jazira will have the advantage after Al Ain’s participation in the AFC Champions League midweek.

The Boss come into this crucial encounter on the back of a 3-1 aggregate win over Zob Ahan to reach the quarters on Wednesday.

But the former Sunderland striker insists their opponents will be fired up as they look to end their season on a high.

“There is no advantage,” said the 31-year-old. “You’ve seen around the world that you think teams have the advantage because they have better players or more money. But football is an unpredictable game and we have to give 100 per cent effort and hope for the best.”

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Yaseen Al Bakhit becomes latest Hatta recruit as club step up AGL preparations

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Yaseen Al Bakhit (r) signs on.

The Tornado recruited Jordan attacking midfielder Yaseen Al Bakhit on Thursday from Al Faisaly Amman to fill a spot in their four-person foreign quota.

The 27-year-old follows a number of impressive local deals which were secured earlier in the week despite the start of the 2016/17 Arabian Gulf League season being three months away.

Forward Mohammed Malallah is the headline acquisition after he was the fourth-highest-scoring Emirati during 2015/16 with six goals in 23 appearances for lowly Emirates Club.

Defender Mahmoud Hassan has also joined from the Falcons, while full-back Bader Abdulrahman has been bought from Sharjah and forward Maher Jassim purchased from relegated Al Shaab.

Hatta were last in the UAE’s leading division during 2007/08, the final season of amateur play.

Their opening match this time sees Arabian Gulf Cup winners Al Wahda take the 266-kilometre trip north east to Hatta Stadium, with round one set to begin on September 15.

Al Bakhit has moved on a one-season deal after he joined the Blue Eagles during summer 2015, who finished second in Jordan.

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Jovanovic hails players after Nasr's historic Champions League win

Matt Jones 26/05/2016
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Salem Saleh gave Nasr the lead in Iran.

Al Nasr coach Ivan Jovanovic paid tribute to his players after their historic AFC Champions League voyage continued with a place in the quarter-finals secured.

The Blue Wave had a far rougher ride than they would have expected following a 4-1 thrashing of Tractor Sazi in the first leg a week ago.

Their advantage was extended to 5-1 early on when Salem Saleh dispatched Jonathan Pitroipa’s fine cross to open the scoring in Tabriz.

Three Tractor goals in 26 second-half minutes, however, whipped the majority of the 67,858 crowd inside Yadegar-e Emam Stadium into a frenzy and left the Blue Wave repelling a tide of constant late attacks.

Jovanovic acknowledged his team had to work hard towards the end but felt they deserved their 5-4 aggregate victory.

“My special thanks to my players,” said Jovanovic following the game. “Perhaps Tractor Sazi attacked more during the (two) games but we were the more effective team. Tractor Sazi are a very powerful team. In football, if you don’t deserve it, you will not go through to the next round.”

Striker Farzad Hatami leveled the scores on the night just after there-start to give his side a glimmer of hope before Mohammad Iranporian’s rocket sent the home fans soaring as Tractor began to believe.

A second for Hatami meant one more would have taken the tie to extra-time, but Nasr held on to continue their fairytale run.

“I congratulate Al Nasr on this victory,” said Tractor coach Amir Ghalenoei. “We should have scored five or six goals but it didn’t happen.  This is one of my bad days. We played good football but couldn’t emerge victorious.”

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