Tagliabue proves his worth in Clarets win

Matt Jones 29/10/2016
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Clarets talisman Sebastian Tagliabue netted a hat-trick but the game hinged on a controversial decision by referee Sultan Abdurazzaq not to award the Blue Wave a clear penalty just past the hour mark after Rim Chang-woo handled in the box.

It was obvious to the Nasr bench, who had seen their side equalise six minutes earlier. Six minute after Abdurazzaq’s decision the game was over as two goals in three minutes from the hosts killed the game off and ramped up the pressure on coach Ivan Jovanovic, while easing concerns over Aguirre’s future in the capital.

“I’m happy for the fans because they deserve the first win of the season at home,” said the Mexican, who knew the scoreline flattered his side.

“In the score it was 5-1 but it was not that easy, there was not much between the sides and we were 1-1 until 25 minutes to go. It was a tough game.”

The former Atletico Madrid coach was happy with a result that eased the tension after a 2-1 defeat to Al Wasl the previous week.

“The defeat to Al Wasl was terrible,” he added. “We had more than 20 shots, 10 corner kicks and crossed the ball 15 times. Today the difference was we were really accurate. Five good balls and five goals, three points. Sometimes we are good in front of goal and sometimes we miss. Today we were played a good offensive game.”

Under fire counterpart Jovanovic, meanwhile, apologised for the margin of defeat.

“I want to say sorry for our fans for this result,” said the Serbian. “We had a good 10 minutes after the equaliser and an opportunity to score another which could have changed the game. But that didn’t happen and then Wahda scored twice within two minutes that put my players under pressure.

“It was very disappointing result. We are in a difficult position and now we want to see how best we can come out of this situation.”

One goal would have been appreciated by those inside Al Nahyan Stadium after a dire first half, although it was perhaps unsurprising the opening 45 minutes was so dull considering both sides have mustered just two wins from eight games between them prior to kick-off

Neither side seemed willing to overcommit to attacking, for fear they might leave themselves exposed at the back.

A turgid opening half was forgotten less than four minutes into the second period when the hosts broke the deadlock through a familiar hero. Tagliabue was released by right-back Mohammed Al Menhali’s inch-perfect throughball and he kept his cool to clip high into the net beyond Abdullah Mohammed.

The Argentine – last season’s AGL top scorer – should have made it two when Suhail Al Mansoori’s lofted ball found him in space. He rounded Mohammed but his tame shot strike Khalifa Mubarak’s heel.

The visitors made Wahda pay two minutes later when Iraqi striker Mohannad Abdulraheem netted his first goal since arriving from Al Zawra’a, rising to nod Fawaz Awana’s pin-pont cross beyond Ali Al Hosani.

The came the key moment. South Korea international Rim ushered the ball out for a corner with his arm but the official was unmoved.

Abdulraheem had a second goal rightly ruled out for offside but Wahda restored their lead when Tagliabue glanced in Balasz Dzsudzsak’s cross.

Three minutes later the Hungarian, who’s had a tough start to life in the Emirates, slid in to net from left-back Ahmed Rashid’s cross.

It was his second goal in two games and his relief was obvious as he high-fived every single member of the home bench.

Al Hosani palmed away Abdelaziz Barrada’s fine effort before Wahda sealed the win in style.

Reigning AGL Young Player of the Year Mohamed Al Akbari collected Tagliabue’s flick-on before powering down the line and delivering a brilliant cross for the Argentine to head home his hat-trick goal.

The youngster completed a fine cameo when he raced onto Jorge Valdivia’s pass and fired beyond Mohammed to make it a mauling.

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Aguirre concerned for young players

Matt Jones 29/10/2016
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Victory and the margin of it is sure to act as a confidence-booster after a 2-1 defeat to Al Wasl a week ago, but the former Atletico Madrid coach wants his players to use the Blue Wave walloping as a springboard rather than an excuse to ease up.

“We are out of the bad results but we still need to win three or four games. We still have problems,” said Aguirre, whose side travel to Sharjah on Wednesday.

“Normally with the three points the week is different, you can relax. Fortunately for us we have a game on Wednesday so there’s no room to relax. I hope, not for me, but the pressure is lifted for the players. They deserve to have the pressure relieved and the three points.”

Aguirre has been around football for many years, so is used to the harsh glare of the spotlight when things are not going his way and speculation surrounding his job – of which there has been plenty in recent weeks following a below par start to the 2016/17 season.

Criticism of his team during a testing start, however, and low morale led the Mexican to worry about the mental health of his young players, such as 2015/16 Arabian Gulf League Young Player of the Season, Mohamed Al Akbari.

“I’m an old man, I know how this game works, but I have young players who can be afraid to play the ball or make mistakes,” said the 57-year-old.

“I understand the rules of the game. For the young players especially it’s important to keep winning or at least playing well. Of course you cannot always win, this is normal, but today this is good for everybody, especially the young players.

“I admit there was pressure, for me and my players, because we were ninth or tenth. The players were tense, it was a tough week, there were many speeches and talk on social media but today we played with big heart and intelligence.”

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Shabab star preaches caution over title talk

Matt Jones 27/10/2016
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Shabab has been the surprise package so far this season.

The 27-year-old schemer has four goals in nine games in all competitions since a summer move from Cyprus’ APOEL, helping the Hawks soar to top spot with four wins from four league games.

Fred Rutten’s men put their 100 per cent record on the line against another perfect team in champions Al Ahli Friday, and De Vincenti is not getting too carried away by his new side’s fine start to the season.

“We are not thinking about the title, because it is too early to think about it,” said the Buenos Aires native. “The players are ambitious but we must work hard  to continue to reap the victories and maintain the team’s chances of success.”

De Vincenti will miss the game at Maktoum Bin Rashid al Maktoum Stadium after collecting a third yellow card of the AGL season – his fifth in all competitions – against Emirates Club last time out and admits it will be tough watching the game from the stands.

“I am sorry I will be absent for the derby and I regret receiving a third yellow card in the last game,” he said. “I do not know how I will watch the match from the stands, it ‘s a difficult situation for me. I wish I was participating with my team-mates and could give my best.

“My absence will be a hard lesson for me and it makes me review my behavior in the future in order to avoid further bans.

“I have great confidence in the ability of my colleagues though to put in a strong performance against Al Ahli, I urge them to work hard to achieve a positive outcome to ensure our successful march at the beginning of the season and keep Al Shabab at the top of the table.”

Red Knights supremo Cosmin Olaroiu, meanwhile, has leapt to the defence of reigning Asia Player of the Year Ahmed Khalil after his lack of appearances so far this season.

The 25-year-old striker has only played four games in all competitions, though he has bagged two goals.

He has played in four World Cup 2018 qualifiers for the UAE too, although he has been nursing a minor injury, but the Romanian rubbished suggestions the frontman is in decline.

“I do not see any decline in the level of Ahmed Khalil,” said Olaroiu, who left his striker out of the 4-1 thrashing of Dibba Al Fujairah on Saturday. “He has complained of a muscle stretch but insisted on playing for his country and after the Saudi Arabia game his condition escalated.

“We preferred not to risk him against Dibba but this is not an example of his falling level.”

Olaroiu is expecting a tough game against the Hawks, but claims that is nothing new.

“It is always, as usual, a tough match against a tough team,” he said. “They have four wins in the league and they are doing well in the Arabian Gulf Cup so we expect a strong game. It is essential that we play well.”

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