Walter Zenga’s miserable return to the Arabian Gulf League is over after he departed bottom-placed Al Shaab by mutual consent on Saturday night.
Zenga, 55, joined the struggling promoted side in November after a spell at Sampdoria in Serie A came to an abrupt end. But the ex-Al Ain, Al Nasr and
Al Jazira supremo had a negligible effect on results, picking up four points in his 12 top-flight matches at the helm to fail to lift them from the foot of the table.
Friday’s 2-0 derby loss to Sharjah provided a fittingly-disappointing denouement.
“The temporary committee of the club has terminated coach Walter Zenga’s contract by mutual agreement,” a statement read. “The committee would like to thank the Italian coach for his efforts.
“Zenga has thanked the committee for their constant cooperation, wishing for the club to have a complete hierarchy and manager to compete at high levels.”
Assistant Stefano Cusin has been placed in temporary charge ahead of Friday’s opening President’s Cup match against Dibba Al Fujairah, with U-19 coach Mohammed Ismael supporting the Italian.
Meanwhile, coach Mohammed Kwid declared Al Dhafra had won the “mother of peaceful battles” against Emirates Club and are now full of belief in their bid to beat the drop.
UAE forward Ahmed Ali’s piercing run and superb finish saw the Western Knights climb out of the relegation zone on Saturday.
Only three points separates second-bottom Fujairah from ninth-placed Dibba Al Fujairah and Kwid was confident about saving his side.
“All the matches in the coming period in the Arabian Gulf League are peaceful battles and the match against Emirates Club was the mother of battles peaceful,” said the Syrian.
“Our team was worried before reaching the 20-point mark and the pressure was great.
“The team is now freed from the pressure after this win.”
Embattled Al Shabab boss Caio Junior hopes the shock win at Arabian Gulf League champions Al Ain signals a fresh start.
Junior, 50, had come under tremendous pressure after a run of six defeats in seven matches had seen the club sink down the standings and be eliminated from the Arabian Gulf Cup and AFC Champions League.
This awful spell ended in style on Thursday as a 92nd-minute goal from Dawood Ali secured a 2-1 triumph at the then leaders.
“After harvesting three points at Al Ain, we can change our chances in the future,” Junior said. “Al Ain dominated play but we followed a particular strategy. I was very confident until the last minute of the match the team would win.”
The result was made all-the-more surprising by the contrast in form.
The Boss had won their last 17 home matches in the top flight, with boss Zlatko Dalic hoping his troops recover in time for Wednesday’s opening Group D assignment in the ACL at home to Qatar’s El Jaish.
He said: “This is the first defeat suffered by Al Ain at home in the league for two years, but the timing is very bad. We have lost three points and lost one of our most important players (Colombian winger Danilo Asprilla).
“We have several days during which we must focus on the next confrontation in the AFC Champions League. We will work to correct our mistakes as required.”
Elsewhere on Thursday, Al Jazira’s renaissance continued as they made it four wins on the spin with a 3-2 victroy against Bani Yas.
It was another poor night for third-placed Al Nasr as they drew 1-1 with Dibba Al Fujairah. Al Wasl are now level with them on 33 points after they won 3-2 at Fujairah, who are now in the drop zone.
The King were in control throughout, moving two points clear of the drop zone in 10th thanks to their first-half goals.
Walter Zenga’s hosts now possess a paltry six points from their 19 fixtures, with an instant return to UAE Division 1 Group A just a matter of time.
The deadlock was broken in the 18th minute from January recruit Ricardinho. The playmaker rounded goalkeeper Obaid Altawila and stroked home after excellent hold-up play from Wanderley.
The star striker was soon to get on the score sheet, volleying home a tap-in from Omar Juma’s excellent cross to move onto an excellent 11 top-flight goals this term.
The only negative for Abdulaziz Al Anbari’s visitors was the injury to key playmaker Maicosuel 10 minutes after the interval.
Meanwhile, Al Dhafra notched a second-successive victory to escape the bottom two at the expense of relegation rivals Emirates Club.
Mohammed Kwid’s visitors took an early lead through Syria forward Omar Khribin’s fine header. Their lead was to last only two minutes as former Australia and Al Nasr midfielder Brett Holman swept home.
The decider came in the 56th minute, UAE forward Ahmed Ali dancing through the defence before smashing into the top corner.