Al Shabab coach Caio gives thumbs up to players
Al Shabab coach Caio Junior has given his group of players the thumbs-up after snatching a spot for next year's Asian Champions League (ACL). Al Shabab overcame a sloppy start at home to snatch three points against cross-city opponents and title contenders Al Nasr in 20th round action of the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) late on Saturday.
The win pushed Junior's side one spot up into sixth while Al Nasr were replaced by neighbours Al Wasl in third spot with their fifth loss so far this season. On the other hand, this was Al Shabab's second win after last week's stunning 2-1 away result against defending champions Al Ain. Saturday's win came due to a second half strike from Nasser Masaood - his second in as many games - to continue their fight for the top positions. The lone goal came ten minutes into the second half with the three points taking the Al Mamzar team into sixth place with 29 points. Neighbours Al Ahli continue to lead the standings with 50 points while defending champions Al Ain may cut down the lead to one point, should they manage to pick up full points against Al Jazira with the two teams scheduled to meet late on Sunday.
"Our target now is to finish in third place. We need to believe in the last six games and this task is not impossible. All we need is to keep our focus and go for maximum points," Junior told media. "I believe in my group of players. We lost some games, but that may be because we didn't have the luck. We are the third best defence in the league with only Al Ahli and Al Ain better than us. Our problem is in offence. We have good organization and we have good players who can make their presence count in the last stages of the league," he added.
Al Nasr coach Ivan Jovanovic was proud of his team, though he hit out at the refereeing. "As a coach I can't say anything to my players as they played well and fought till the end. Coming from a string of strong games we did well to create a lot of chances. But this one set piece was decisive and that settled our fate even though we created a better share of chances."
On a different note, Jovanovic said: "I believe we had to face Al Shabab and all the wrong decisions from the referee [Yaqoob Qassim]. That's tough to take especially when your team is playing well. I don't believe the standard of refereeing was adequate for a league match and this is what puzzled us as a team," he said.
"There is a huge difference in the number of fouls we committed and the number of times the referee blew the whistle against us. Blowing the whistle so many times, perhaps 40 to 45 times against one team, doesn't help the pace of the game," he remarked. "The other team committed fouls and went unpunished, but anything we did was immediately noticed by the referee. How can we score a goal with so many stoppages?" he queried.