Al Ain still hold a “big chance” to make the AFC Champions League semi-finals despite their goalless home draw with Lokomotiv Tashkent, according to veteran defender Ismail Ahmed.
The ill-prepared Boss kicked off their 2016/17 commitments on Tuesday night with a last-eight opener against sharp opponents who are midway through their domestic season. Predictably, the hosts at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium stuttered throughout and only the wayward finishing of Uzbekistan winger Sardor Mirzayev avoided the concession of a damaging away goal.
The sides reconvene after the international break at Bunyodkor Stadium on September 13 and UAE stalwart Ahmed, 33, was confident of a positive outcome.
He said: “We needed to win this game, but it was also important we didn’t concede a goal. This is very important for us.
“Inshallah, we still have one more game there. Inshallah, we will get the qualification. The first game will not be like the second game. They will also need to score in the next match.
“Inshallah, we will go there with a big chance, Inshallah, to get the victory and go through. All the time, Al Ain believes in themselves.”
Lokomotiv represent dark horses for the competition. The knockout-stage debutants have lost just one of 32 matches during 2016 and boast a five-point lead in the ongoing Uzbek Oliy League.
Man-of-the-match Timur Kapadze, 34, is a central figure to this success. The ex-Sharjah player’s expertise in the defensive-midfield role of their 4-1-4-1 formation has seen the club concede only four goals in nine 2016
ACL fixtures and the 119-times-capped international was in buoyant mood.
He said: “I have to congratulate all my team-mates as we played a difficult match. A draw is good away from home, so I think we will qualify in the next match.
“I think it was a fair result, because in the first half we had two chances to score and also in the second half we had two more.”
The saving grace for Al Ain is their superb away record in Asia’s premier club tournament, losing just one of the last seven matches.
“We know exactly what we have to do in Uzbekistan to get a result,” midfielder Ibrahim Diaky, 34, said. “I believe.
“The weather is not easy, for both teams, but we have more time to get ready and I’m sure when we go there we give everything that we have and I’m sure we can qualify.
“It’s the first game, nothing is lost. Of course, we’re not satisfied with the result, but I’m sure with the quality that we have in the team, that we’ll get ready and then go to Uzbekistan and qualify.
“I have confidence in my team-mates. It will not be an easy game, but I’m sure we can qualify.”
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