Zlatko Dalic says Al Ain fans' treatment of Douglas was harsh ahead of Al Hilal clash in AFC Champions League quarter-finals

Matt Jones - Editor 18:47 19/08/2017
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Former Al Ain coach Zlatko Dalic claims the criticism striker Douglas received following his penalty miss in last year’s AFC Champions League final was undeserved, and he is happy to see him back in Boss colours.

Douglas, 29, was deregistered by the club at the start of 2017 following a crisis of confidence in the wake of his critical miss during defeat to South Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.

Douglas blazed horribly over just before half time after Danilo Asprilla had been scythed down – his miss crucial as Al Ain drew the second leg of the final at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium 1-1, which saw Jeonbuk lift the trophy 3-2 on aggregate.

The club had been looking to offload the broken Brazillian, but brought him back in from the cold after he featured in just seven games after his spot kick woe.

He is now likely to start tomorrow’s quarter-final first leg tie against Al Hilal in the Garden City alongside summer arrival Marcus Berg. And the man who brought him to the UAE from Japan’s Tokushima Vortis is delighted to see him back.

“We brought Douglas to Al Ain as the best player of the Japanese League. He did not deserve that kind of pressure from the fans,” Dalic, who left Al Ain in January in the wake of their final heartache, told the-afc.com.

“He had not found a way of wrestling off that pressure and he fell under it as did the management of the club. I am very happy he is back where he belongs, in the team of Al Ain, he deserves (to be successful) as a player and also as a person.”

Dalic won the Arabian Gulf Super Cup, Arabian Gulf League and President’s Cup with the Boss and also coached the Crescent to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Cup in 2013.

And after both clubs have featured in two of the last three ACL finals, the Croat feels it is time for a UAE or Saudi club to finally lift the continent’s biggest club football prize.

“It is about time the final is won by one of these teams,” he said.

“Because in the last three years all finals played were lost by clubs from this region; Al Hilal, Al Ahli (now Shabab Al Ahli Dubai) and Al Ain. They were defeated by clubs from Australia, China and South Korea.

“Both teams have big ambitions in this tournament, last season Al Ain were in the final and Al Hilal were there three years ago. It will be a big clash.”

Dalic could not pick a winner from his two former clubs, choosing instead to sit on the fence for what is sure to be a packed house at the Hazza. But he does feel Hilal must head back to Riyadh having secured an away goal.

“Chances are 50-50, both teams have the same problem – both legs come at the very beginning of the season. Both teams have a lot of experience of what is it like to be in the AFC Champions League,” said Dalic.

“Both teams have a lot of quality players, in this match the game changer will not be an individual but the whole team as a unit.

“The stadium will be packed, so many passionate fans can only be strength, motivation and big support to the team. Al Hilal have great fans and I witnessed that a couple of times.

“It is always important in the away games to achieve at least one goal. To achieve a positive result which will give hope for the home game. This match-up is about teams of close quality and both matches will be important.”

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