Abdulrahman: Fixture pile-up taking its toll

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Heavy legs: Al Ain’s Omar Abdulrahman.

Al Ain’s midweek AFC Champions League stalemate proved they are only human as the strain of fighting on multiple fronts continued to leave its mark, according to Omar Abdulrahman.

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The Boss were pegged back on Tuesday night at home to Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor, Igor Sergeev’s header securing a 1-1 draw at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium after Jires Kembo Ekoko had put the hosts ahead.

Combined with Naft Tehran’s 3-0 triumph at Saudi Arabia’s Al Shabab Riyadh, the dropped points saw Al Ain lose their status as Group B leaders with two games left.

A hectic fixture list has seen Zlatko Dalic’s men often playing every three days. The punishing schedule has seen their Asian commitments added to a packed itinerary containing Arabian Gulf Super Cup defeat to Al Ahli on March 27, as well as battling to retain their four-point advantage at the top of the Arabian Gulf League.

UAE superstar Abdulrahman has evidenced the effect of this pressure, a succession of underwhelming displays registered in recent weeks after finding his way back to full fitness following recovery from yet another injury.

“You have to understand that we are humans and we also get tired,” the 23-year-old said.

“We played an absorbing match in the Super Cup against Al Ahli, then again against them in the league where we are leading the group and now this encounter in the Champions League – where we are again at the top of the table.

“So you can understand, these are all high-pressure matches. We are unable to get rid of one tournament and then focus on the other. Had we won today, probably we could have afforded to take the remaining two matches a bit easy but now we have to win at least one match to ensure we move ahead.”

Leading striker Asamoah Gyan was forced to watch from the stands, pulling out an hour before kick-off after deciding he was not fully recovered from a lingering quadriceps problem despite starting the previous fixture in the AGL against Ahli last Thursday.

The Ghana captain’s repeated absences have seen Kembo Ekoko fill in up front away from his usual rampaging wide role.

The 27-year-old finished with aplomb for last year’s semi-finalists against Sherlar, sweeping a low finish into the bottom corner to open the scoring.

He praised the fact that the rest of the Boss squad “is chipping in” during a season in which Gyan and Abdulrahman have featured sporadically, saying: “The draw is not a bad result, as we played good football.

“Yes, we conceded one goal but I won’t say it had anything to do with the way we played. Everyone gave their best.

“Today we missed (Asamoah) Gyan and we have missed Omar also before but everyone is chipping in and that’s what is vital. We have to carry on the good work.”

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