Marcus Berg still has total belief in ACL prospects for Al Ain

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Al Ain players celebrate with Marcus Berg against Al Rayyan.

Sweden striker Marcus Berg’s confidence about winless Al Ain’s progression in the 2018 AFC Champions League remains bulletproof, despite seeing a hatful of chances go begging against Al Rayyan.

The Boss dominated their tenacious Qatari opponents for large spells on Tuesday night, but could only secure a 1-1 draw after first-half penalties were shared between Berg and Morocco striker Abderrazak Hamdallah. In particular, the former was guilty of putting in an uncharacteristically wasteful display to ensure a second-successive stalemate in Group D.

Could belief now be a problem for the 2002/03 winners, with four games left?

“No, no – not at all,” replied Berg, who has struck an impressive 16 times in 23 run-outs since June’s €3.3 million (Dh14.9m) move from Greece’s Panathinaikos. “We know we are a strong team and we know we can do better than we did in this game.

“But still, we have a good chance. It is not about goals, it is about the points we need to make it to the next round.

“I think we have a good chance to do it, but we need the three points.”

Berg, 31, has proven a superb addition for Al Ain. He has thus far excelled where Nigeria front man Emmanuel Emenike, Brazilian striker Douglas and Saudi Arabia loanee Nasser Al Shamrani flopped since July 2015’s sale of Ghana record breaker Asamoah Gyan.

Experience of the Europa League and UEFA Champions League had been gained during previous stints at Hamburg, PSV Eindhoven and Pana. He is now enjoying continental football in Asia.

Berg said: “It is a strong competition [the ACL].

“All the teams are competitive and try to win the games.

Al Ain next month face a vital double header against Iran’s Esteghlal, led by their ex-coach Winfried Schafer.

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Shabab Al Ahli v Al Wasl is highlight of Arabian Gulf Cup semi-final draw

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Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club and Al Wasl will meet again in Arabian Gulf Cup semi-finals (PLC).

Nominal holders Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club will meet city rivals Al Wasl and minnows Dibba Al Fujairah will face high-flying Al Wahda in next month’s Arabian Gulf Cup semi-finals.

The Pro League Committee carried out the draw on Tuesday for UAE football’s third most-important competition. An all-Dubai tie is sure to garner the most interest.

Al Ahli stormed to a 2-0 victory against Al Shabab in last year’s showpiece, before those two were merged with Dubai CSC in May to create the new outfit. Opponents Wasl are pushing for the Arabian Gulf League-title, but haven’t won silverware since 2010’s GCC Champions League.

Wahda are also in the mix for top-flight success. They will fancy their chances against Dibba, who have never lifted a major trophy.

The legs will be played on March 9 and 22.

AG CUP FIXTURES

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Sweden star Marcus Berg yet to match Asamoah Gyan in ACL and other Al Ain talking points

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Goalscorer Marcus Berg (r) in action for Al Ain against Al Rayyan in the 2018 AFC Champions League.

Al Ain’s 2018 AFC Champions League campaign is yet to receive ignition after they shared penalties to frustratingly draw 1-1 with Michael Laudrup’s dogged Al Rayyan.

First-half spot-kicks were shared by the Boss’ Sweden No9 Marcus Berg and prolific Morocco striker Abderrazak Hamdallah. The former, vitally, also missed a sack of chances to leave a positive team display unfulfilled and make it successive stalemates in Group D.

BERG FEELS GYAN’S PRESENCE

This was a rare night to forget for the hosts’ marquee summer recruit.

Berg’s performance will not be defined by an expert 10th-minute penalty. It will be his succession of misses – in particular, a woeful 78th-minute air shot.

It is hard to criticise a man with 16 goals in 23 games. But Boss fans will always think, ‘Asamoah Gyan would have scored that’.

Emmanuel Emenike and Douglas are just two to fail this exacting test since the Ghana superstar’s 2015 exit. You would back Berg to make amends, beginning with next month’s key double header versus Winfried Schafer’s Esteghlal.

MAMIC MAGIC HAS NO REWARD

He might not have been on the touchline, but Al Ain coach Zoran Mamic’s presence could be felt throughout this engaging clash.

The suspended ex-Croatia international – sent off in last week’s opening goalless draw at 2017 runners-up Al Hilal – went for broke, cramming in as many attackers as humanly possible.

With rising Egypt star Hussein El Shahat at right-back, this bold approach was only let down by Berg’s surprise profligacy.

On another night, this would have been an enlivening win for the 2002/03 winners. Mamic should not be downhearted.

AMOORY STILL FINDING HIS WAY

A curious and fitful campaign continued for the UAE’s golden boy.

Playmaker Omar Abdulrahman’s all-action display did not betray the fact this was just a 12th start in 2017/18. But, and there have been too many this term, he did not do enough with these openings and certainly did not deserve another surprise man-of-the-match gong.

In particular, a conveyor belt of crosses were cleared by the scrambling Rayyan defence in the second half. Al Ain require more precision.

al ain pitch

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