Shabab Al Ahli can still qualify for ACL playoffs, says coach Ali - GulfToday

Shabab Al Ahli can still qualify for ACL playoffs, says coach Ali

Mahdi Ali

Mahdi Ali

Shabab Al Ahli coach Mahdi Ali has blamed his team’s long list of absentees for the 3-1 defeat to Al-Hilal, but is confident that the club can still qualify for the Asian Champions League knockout stages.

Former France international forward Bafetimbi Gomis and Andre Carrillo were on target as Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia grabbed their first AFC Champions League win against the UAE’s Shabab Al Ahli on Sunday.

Three-time Asian champions Al Hilal, who were surprisingly held 2-2 by Uzbek debutants AGMK in their first Group A match, started in style with former Lyon and Swansea City striker Gomis scoring with a calm finish from a Mohamed al-Burayk pass in the 14th minute.

Although Al Hilal were clearly the better side, Al Ahli had a great chance to equalise in the 23rd minute but Igor Jesus fired wide.

The UAE side appeared to be gaining momentum but some shoddy defending left the Peruvian midfielder Carrillo unmarked in the 28th minute to double the lead.

“Al Hilal had a good match and they deserved to win,” said Ali. “We missed many players due to injuries and we also lost possession quickly, which made it difficult for us.”

“The players were also tired because we played a lot of matches in our local league. They were also affected by the conditions of Ramadan.

“We should forget this match and start thinking of the next. We still have a chance but we must avoid the mistakes that we made today.”

 “We had the desire to compensate and we continued to try until the final minutes, when we wasted two chances. We suffered physically because the team has played a large number of domestic matches over the last month, as we are competing in many competitions, and we were also affected by the circumstances of the month of Ramadan, he added.

Having opened with a 0-0 draw against Istiklol, Shabab Al Ahli will aim for their first win when they play AGMK on Wednesday.

“We knew that we would be playing against a strong side with great capabilities,” said Al Hilal coach Rogerio Micale in the post-match press conference

“However, we made it easy right from the beginning when we scored two goals to control the match.”

“I’m happy with the performance of the players tonight. The performance is different in each match but this is due to the extraordinary situation throughout the world and this is also happening to big teams elsewhere. We are trying our best not to put pressure on the players during the trainings because we are in Ramadan and playing a match every three days,” he added.

Al Hilal face Istiklol FC on Wednesday knowing a win will see them open a three-point gap at the top of the standings at the halfway stage, with only the group winners assured of advancing to the Round of 16.

Tajik debutants Istiklol made history with their first win in the tournament as they saw off Uzbekistan’s AGMK 3-2 in Riyadh.

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