Sebastian Tagliabue issued a stark warning to the rest of the Arabian Gulf League by vowing there are plenty more goals to come from him as he aims to fire Al Wahda to title glory – on a night the Argentine moved into clear third place on UAE football’s all-time top scorers’ list in the professional era.
Tagliabue was in sensational form in the Abu Dhabi derby on Monday, netting a hat-trick in the Clarets’ 4-2 win over champions Al Jazira at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.
That brought his tally for the season to 17 goals in all competitions, sitting top of the Arabian Gulf Cup with six strikes and one behind Al Wasl hotshot Fabio De Lima on 11 in the AGL charts.
His prolific form means Wahda go into the second half of the season still in contention to earn silverware. The Clarets sit third in the AGL, two points behind joint-leaders Wasl and Al Ain, and are on the verge of reaching the semi-finals of the AG Cup following their 2-1 first-leg win over the Boss last month.
With the AFC Champions League beginning next month, as well as their President’s Cup defence, Wahda face a busy schedule in the next six months.
But Tagliabue – who now has 98 AGL goals, three behind former Al Ain striker Asamoah Gyan, and scored his eighth league hat-trick, joint most in the professional era with Ali Mabkhout – is confident of continuing his fine form, although he would be happy if his goals rewarded him with the ultimate prize in UAE football.
“I think so (plenty of more goals), said the 32-year-old. “It’s my first game of 2018 and we’re in third place. I try to win as many games and my tallies have shown I’m having a good season. Winning the golden boot will be great but I want to win the league title and become a champion. If I win the golden boot that would be perfect.
“We are in a good position and two points behind the leaders but there’s still more matches to play which I hope we can win.”
Coach Laurentiu Reghecampf praised the Argentine, crediting the whole team for creating the chances for their stand-in skipper.
“I’m very happy that he scored three and was given many chances to score,” said the Romanian, who recently extended his stay at Al Nayhan Stadium until the end of 2019 season. “That is the work of all the players which we work on in training every day.”
Despite victory, Reghecampf was unhappy his team conceded twice in the last five minutes after Mohamed Al Akbari made it 4-0.
“The matches are only finished when the final whistle is blown, that’s what our players have to understand,” he said. “The two goals we conceded in the last five minutes isn’t good for us. I’m not happy, we have to be 100 per cent focused until the end of the match.”
Henk Ten Cate believes defeat to Al Wahda saw Al Jazira relinquish their Arabian Gulf League title, as Sebastian Tagliabue moved into third place on the all-time top scorers’ list in the professional era.
A 4-2 defeat in an entertaining spectacle at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium on Monday night saw a seven-point gap opened up between reigning champions Jazira, in fifth, and Laurentiu Reghecampf’s Clarets, who consolidated their grip on third and went two points behind joint leaders Al Ain and Al Wasl.
And Ten Cate bluntly replied “yes” when asked if he thought the title race was over for the Pride of Abu Dhabi following a third defeat of the season.
“The difference is nine points and means you have to get one more point than your opponent. It’s almost impossible and we have to be realistic,” said Ten Cate, who added that despite possessing an injury-ravaged and fatigued squad, insisted there’s reason for optimism.
“There’s a lot to win. We play in the Super Cup on January 20 and we will be there.”
Capital city rivals Jazira and Wahda will clash again at Bani Yas Stadium in 10 days’ time in the Arabian Gulf Super Cup as the delayed spectacle between league champions Jazira and President’s Cup winners Wahda finally goes ahead.
After a packed month of football which has included reaching the semi-final of the FIFA Club World Cup, where they pushed European and Spanish champions Real Madrid all the way before losing 2-1, Ten Cate fears his mentally and physically drained squad – Ali Mabkhout’s participation in defeat was his 11th match in a little over a month – are in “deep trouble”.
“Our team is in such a state that after the disappointment we can’t come back again,” added the Dutchman.
“This was the result that I was waiting for a long time. The players are not to blame. They staff are not to blame. We did an amazing job together but there comes a moment in time that it’s finished and that was today.
“This was a very big wake-up call and I hope everybody wakes up. It’s very difficult to speak about football in a situation that we’re in.
“It’s a mental reason. It’s not to do with technique. It’s difficult for me as coach to motivate the players and difficult for the players to motivate themselves. This is how it is.
“This isn’t to justify the defeat. This defeat was going to come one day or another. It could’ve been against Ajman or Hatta or whoever. But we are in a bad situation. It’s the mental state of the players which isn’t good. Right now, we’re in deep trouble. There’s no more willpower.
“The team doesn’t have the mental state to bounce back. Due to different circumstances which is beyond our control.”
Henk ten Cate will be forced to continue to dip into the Al Jazira academy with the frustrated Dutchman claiming he has “absolutely no possibility” to freshen up his fatigued and injury-ravaged squad before tomorrow’s UAE transfer deadline.
Ten Cate looked anything but regal, cutting a forlorn figure at his press conference at Emirates Palace yesterday ahead of tomorrow’s rearranged Arabian Gulf League fixture against city rivals Al Wahda.
The Dutchman was uncharacteristically curt when quizzed about whether he would make any additions to his squad ahead of the deadline – with the Pride of Abu Dhabi’s players exhausted by a hectic festive period of football.
This included reaching the semi-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup against real Madrid, as well as six players being away with the UAE at the Gulf Cup in Kuwait. Jazira have played twice as many games as rivals since November 30, with tomorrow’s game their ninth in 39 days.
“I really don’t know. I don’t have a clue. This is one of our least problems, it’s the only thing I can say,” Ten Cate said about the possibility of arrivals at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.
When asked if he would like to bring any more players in, Ten Cate laughed, before adding “no”. When pushed if that meant he was satisfied with his squad, he added: “Also no. Every coach wants the best players to work with. It should be possible and here in this club we have absolutely no possibilities.
“It is absolutely one of the reasons why I will depend more on the academy. It’s not that the players don’t have quality, but they are very young. They don’t have experience. They need time.
“If you look at Mohamed Al Attas, he’s dead. You cannot blame the young kids, he is working his socks off.
“It’s like driving a car and you have no gasoline anymore. You slowly will stop, so we have to be very careful with those young players, play them too much and they break down. So we have to be really careful, we are watching their progress and we will take decisions on the spot.”
French international and former Los Blancos midfield anchor Lassana Diarra was given a free transfer by the club last month, following a lackustre spell in the Emirates which included just five appearances since a summer switch from Marseille.
His exit leaves a spot in Jazira’s four-man foreign quota, although that could be filled by talented teenage Egyptian midfielder Abdalla Ramadan. The 19-year-old academy project is highly thought of at the club and made his senior debut off the substitute’s bench in the 4-1 loss to Mexico’s Pachuca in the Club World Cup third-place play-off on December 16.
The future of Uzbekistan winger Sardor Rashidov is also uncertain, having failed to convince since arriving in the summer alongside impressive Brazilian forward Romarinho from now defunct Qatari side El Jaish.
Despite leading the club to the President’s Cup and AGL titles in his first two seasons in Abu Dhabi, annoyed Ten Cate revealed his job is becoming “more difficult every day”, although he refuted suggestions from reports in the Egyptian press that he could be set for a move there.
Ten Cate, who’s original contract at Jazira was set to expire this summer, although it remains unclear if he has extended it, added: “I’ve had a lot of offers. No, I’m joking. I haven’t met with anyone, this is the honest truth. I have no verbal or written offers.
“I am concentrating on my work here which is hard and difficult enough, especially at this moment of time. It’s not getting easier, it’s getting more difficult every day.”