Zoran Mamic has described striker Douglas as a “really strong character” after fighting back to prominence at Al Ain following his penalty miss which contributed to defeat in last year’s AFC Champions League final.
The 29-year-old blazed horribly over just before half time in the second-leg of the November’s ACL final after Danilo Asprilla had been scythed down – his miss led to a 1-1 draw at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium that night with South Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, who went on to lift the ACL title with a 3-2 aggregate victory.
Douglas was deregistered by the club at the start of 2017 following a crisis of confidence in the wake of his critical miss and he featured in just seven more games during last season after that November 26 encounter.
He was expected to be jettisoned from the Garden City in the summer, but Mamic instead decided to keep him, along with fellow Brazilian Caio – who had a fine debut campaign – while adding another striker in Swede Marcus Berg and Japan defender Tsukasa Shiotani to the Boss’ ranks in the off-season.
Douglas started Al Ain’s goalless ACL quarter-final first leg draw with Al Hilal on Monday – nearly nine months to the day since his and the club’s final heartache.
He saw an effort harshly chalked off for offside in the first half while Hilal goalkeeper Abdullah Al Maiouf brilliantly denied him what would have been a deserved goal after the interval as he caught the eye.
And Mamic was delighted to see him welcomed back by an electric Hazza crowd.
“He was today one of the best Al Ain players on the pitch. He played very good and played for the team. I was really happy with him,” Mamic said of Douglas, who was substituted to rapturous applause four minutes from time.
“He is a very strong person to survive something like that. But this is football, this is life. Bigger players than Douglas have missed penalties and he feels support from the coaching staff, from the players and now also today, I saw the fans were very happy with him. He will be great for us.”
Asked post-match if the striker – who otherwise has a fine record of 27 goals in 47 games for the Boss – had withdrawn due to criticism following that penalty miss, Mamic said: “No, he’s not nervous.”
He added: “He’s quiet and he fights, he runs, he works hard. But you can kick him and he won’t comment. He is a really, really good character.”
Along with Douglas, compatriot Caio also impressed in the opening leg, and Mamic counts himself lucky to have both players under his command.
“I’m very lucky as a coach of this team as I have two Brazilians in Caio and Douglas, but they are not like normal Brazilians,” he said.
“They are not like Brazilians in mentality, they are professional like Germans, both of them, and I’m very happy with them.”