Al Jazira focussed on win with outside chance of Cup semi at stake

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Al Jazira must focus on beating neighbours Al Wahda before worrying about a potential UAE League Cup semi-final place, according to assistant coach Stefano Cusin.

The Pride of Abu Dhabi know they must win to stand any chance of reaching the last four.

With Sharjah guaranteed of qualification from Group A, Bani Yas would seal their own passage to the semi-finals with a win at Dubai.

Al Samawi assumed control of a last-four place with a 3-1 defeat of Jazira in November, but Walter Zenga’s side – who start the night a point behind Bani Yas – can nip in ahead if they better their result.

“We will ignore any other matches and focus only on playing well and winning the three points from this complicated match,” Cusin told www.jc.ae.

Jazira are without seven players for Wahda’s visit, including five who are away on international duty.

Cusin insists that will not affect the quality or intensity of the game, though, saying that playing their Abu Dhabi neighbours always requires “maximum respect”.

That was a view shared by Wahda boss Jose Peseiro who urged his players to take the game seriously, despite seeing their own semi-final chances evaporate months ago.

“The players must respect the club shirt when they are on the pitch,” said the coach, who is without three UAE squad members for the game. “It is always a big game against Jazira. There is pride at stake.”

In Dubai, Bani Yas will be looking to seal a first win under coach Adnan Hamad.

Al Samawi have not won since a 4-0 demolition of tonight’s opponents on January 23.

In the night’s other game, Sharjah take on city rivals Al Shaab needing a point to be sure of top spot in Group A.

Fixtures (all 19:05) 
Today

Dubai v Bani Yas
Sharjah v A l Shaab
Al Jazira v A l Wahda
Tomorrow
Emirates v A l Dhafra
Al Wasl v A l Nasr
Al Ahli v A l Shabab

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Al Ahli waste two-goal lead to share the spoils in Saudi Arabia

Kenny Laurie 27/02/2014
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Al Ahli gave up a 2-0 lead to come away from Al Hilal with a 2-2 draw in their first game of the AFC Champions League last night.

Luis Jimenez had given Al Ahli the lead early in the second half before turning provider for Grafite in the 57th minute but the hosts hit back through a pair from Nassir Al Shamrani to share the points.

Al Ahli survived an aggressive start from the hosts before taking control of the game from the 20th minute.

Though no goals were forthcoming in the first half, the visitors made their presence felt early in the second period.

An inch-perfect pass from Ciel made its way to Jimenez, who slid the ball past the goalkeeper before wheeling off in delight after 52 minutes.

Five minutes later, Al Ahli doubled their lead in destructively simple style.

A long ball from the back caught the Al Hilal defence sleeping, slipping Jimenez through down the left hand side.

The Chilean bore down on goal before making a simple square pass to Grafite for a routine finish.

Al Hilal needed just a minute to strike back, with Al Shamrani scoring a looping header from a corner before bringing the scores level with a simple finish from a parried shot.

Ciel nearly grabbed a late winner when he saved the ball from going out of play before cutting into the area and lashing a ball just over the bar.

Elsewhere, in Group D, Qatar’s Al Sadd went top of the pool after a 3-1 win over Iranian side Sepahan.

Khalfan Ibrahim gave the home side a 1-0 lead going into half time before Mehdi Sharifi equalised with 12 minutes to go.

The Qataris dug in deep late on, grabbing a pair through Nadir Belhadj and Rodrigo.

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Quique future still in doubt despite win

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Quique's saviour: Gyan's goal may be enough to convince Al Ain to stick with Flores.

If Quique Sanchez Flores is shown the door at Al Ain he will leave with his head held high after the Boss secured a 2-1 victory over Lekhwiya in the AFC Champions League.

Ibrahim Diaky gave the hosts the lead in the 12th minute at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium but it did not prove to be a comfortable half with the Qataris finding an equaliser through Vladimir Weiss before the break.

The Boss were much improved after the break and retook the lead when Asamoah Gyan hammered home to give them their first win at their new stadium.

Whether it’s enough to keep their coach in a job only time will tell.

It is only natural that the uncertainty over Sanchez Flores’ future would have an effect on the team, and Al Ain started the game looking bereft of confidence.

That is not a recipe for success when you are playing a side top of the Qatar Stars League (QSL) but against the run of play it was the hosts that took the lead.

Yassine El Ghanassy won the ball in a tackle on the left flank, before finding Gyan in space who in turn picked out Mirel Radoi.

The Romanian hit a thunderous first-time drive from 20 yards that careered back off the post, and though, the rebound evaded Alex Brosque, Diaky was able to side-foot his side into the lead.

The goal did not appear to calm Al Ain’s nerves and they were grateful to a couple of timely interventions from recently maligned keeper Khalid Essa to keep them in the lead.

However there was nothing the UAE international could do as Weiss pulled Lekhwiya level with five minutes of the half remaining.

The Slovakian still had plenty of work to do having been found by the impressive Youssef Msakni, but he did it with aplomb as he turned inside Mohanad Salem and without breaking stride lofted a left-footed chip over the stranded Essa.

The equaliser arrived to a chorus of boos but the Boss almost found themselves in front again, only to see Ismail Ahmed’s flicked header drop just wide of the far post.

The mood did not lighten at half-time as cameras inside the ground panned to show the watching Omar Abdulrahman in the stands, but the Boss were more positive after the break.

Gyan fired an early warning shot but the hosts would have to survive two scares before retaking the lead. Essa was again alert to cut a cross from Sebastian Soria before the Qatar international flashed a header wide.

The collective heart rate in the stadium was rising by the minute but within seconds of El Ghanassy setting pulses racing with a fine run and shot before Gyan restored his side’s lead.

As Lekhwiya tried to clear their lines, Diaky nicked in before recycling the ball to Ahmed Barman before the young midfielder produced a fine through ball to set the Ghanaian racing through.

Gyan didn’t even need a touch as he powered a first-time effort from the edge of the 18-yard box past Lacomte.

The goal did not calm tensions in the stadium though with a section of supporters closest to the home dugout involved in an angry exchange shortly after Gyan’s intervention.

Diaky had the chance to extend the Boss’ lead following an exchange with El Ghanassy but it didn’t matter as the hosts held on amidst delirious scenes.

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