Zoran Mamic has issued a stark warning to Al Wahda, Al Wasl and any other teams standing in Al Ain’s path towards the Arabain Gulf League title – insisting they must “double their efforts” if they want to stop the Boss.
Mamic’s men served notice of their prowess and desire to lift a maiden AGL title in three years with a resounding 7-0 thrashing of surprise league package Ajman on Saturday.
Egyptian schemer Hussein El Shahat continued his excellent form since arriving from Misr Lel Makkasa during the winter transfer window with a vibrant hat-trick against the Orange Brigade, as well as adding two assists for exciting youngster Rayan Yaslam and fellow January arrival Ahmed Khalil.
It kept the Boss two points clear at the top of the table, ahead of Laurentiu Reghecampf’s Wahda who edged out fellow title challengers Wasl 4-3 in an epic encounter in Abu Dhabi on Friday.
The Cheetahs, four points adrift of Al Ain, and the Clarets are the only two likely challengers to the Boss, and Mamic has laid down the gauntlet to the duo.
“There is no team that can put pressure on us and those who want to catch up with us will have to double their efforts if they want to win the league title, they have to achieve the results,” said Mamic in his post match press conference on Saturday.
“I’m happy with my team, the players are very strong and have the professional mentality that always leads them to achieve the best results.
“They wanted to score more goals and if we follow our results in the same way, we will achieve our goals.
“It’s difficult to talk about just one point of the match, but we had good organisation, tactical discipline and consistency were all positive factors, and I have to pay tribute to the three midfielders, Ahmed Barman, Mohammed Abdulrahman and Rayan Yaslam.
“They showed high skills and succeeded in linking between the lines of defense and attack. Like many coaches, the best way to play is with one-touch football and a good team performance.”
Despite the sizeable margin of victory, perfectionist Mamic was not entirely happy, and insisted his team keep their concentration throughout the entire 90 minutes.
“We played 88 minutes at the required level, but we did not show the same performance in two minutes out of the 90,” added the Croatian.
“We have called on the players not to give the opponent any chance to score against us, which requires us to work to redouble our efforts during the next phase to address the mistakes that cost a lot in some games.
“But, generally, the team deserves the deserved victory after a good performance.”
Mamic lavished particular praise on Barman, who played 65 minutes despite injuring his shoulder in Tuesday’s 2-0 AFC Champions League play-off victory over Bahraini champions Malkiya.
Of some concern will be a knock El Shahat took in scoring his hat-trick goal. The 26-year-old collided with Ajman stopper Hamad Khalid and immediately hit the deck.
Former Bani Yas wideman Bandar Al Ahbabi was replaced at the break, meanwhile, by Mohamed Ahmed, but Mamic expects both players to train this week, while he also believes talisman Omar Abdulrahman will be available for Thursday’s game against Emirates Club at the Hazza.
‘Amoory’ and fellow UAE star Ali Mabkhout were handed four-match domestic suspensions by the UAE Football Association on January 23 after they broke a curfew while on international duty at the Gulf Cup in Kuwait in December.
Both Al Ain and Al Jazira appealed the suspensions, surprisingly issued to cover domestic games and punishing the duo’s clubs. But Mamic stated defiantly: “Amoory is ready.”
The Boss dropped off the front overnight thanks to Al Wahda’s stunning 4-3 victory against fellow title contenders Al Wasl. Spurred on by that result, the hosts at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium ran rampant and made it 18 matches undefeated in the top flight.
It took only seven minutes for the breakthrough to be found when Misr Lel Makkasa-loanee El Shahat saw his goal-bound effort deflected in off Adeilson. Sweden No9 Marcus Berg then produced his 12th goal in 14 AGL run-outs with a header into the far corner.
A smart finish from El Shahat followed, before brilliant Brazilian forward Caio produced a wonder goal from long range to make it 4-0 by the half-hour mark.
El Shahat teed up UAE youngster Rayan Yaslam for the fifth soon after the interval. The Egyptian set up coveted winter recruit Ahmed Khalil on the 76th minute before completing his trio, and the scoring, on 82 minutes.
Meanwhile, returning coach Ivan Jovanovic’s renaissance at Al Nasr continued with a fine 2-0 victory at Dibba Al Fujairah.
The decision to rehire the man sacked in October 2016 continued to bear fruit for the Blue Wave. A pair of victories have been produced in his two matches in full control – a 1-0 defeat at Wahda was recorded under caretaker, Ali Murad.
Youngster Rashid Omer opened the scoring on 41 minutes when he danced past two Fishermen defenders and hit a shot which deflected in. Right-back Ahmed Al Yassi sealed the points on 58 minutes with a powerful strike.
Floundering champions Al Jazira were given a helping hand by Yasser Abdulla’s epic own goal in a 3-1 win against bottom-placed Al Dhafra.
The epic contest, which featured a shared seven goals and two red cards for the hosts, was settled deep into extra time when the 12-goal forward stood over the ball from 12-yards out.
His low effort was then pushed away by UAE prospect Mohamed Al Shamsi to provide a grandstand finale.
Speaking in the wake of his failed attempt, a deflated Canedo said: “I’m sad because it’s the first time I’ve ever missed a penalty.
“The team has made a lot of mistakes, but I’m disappointed that I missed a penalty that would change the result.
“The title race remains open, despite our loss. I ask the public to support the players until the end.”
Wins for Al Ain and Wahda ensured Wasl ended the round four points off the pace.
Meanwhile, Sharjah boss Abdulaziz Al Anbari stoically took responsibility for his side’s surprise 3-1 home reversal at the hands of relegation fodder Hatta.
Brazilian pair Samuel Rosa and Fernando Gabriel were at the heart of a second-successive defeat for the King, who had previously won their last four games in all competitions.
“The technical bear this result, although we expected a better level from the players,” said Al Anbari, whose charges next face Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club on Friday.