‘We don’t have best players but best team’
All praise from Ten Cate for capital side
HATTA // Henk ten Cate praised Al Jazira’s teamwork as key to winning the Arabian Gulf League, as the club’s “dream finally came true” last night.
The capital side, champions once previously, defeated Hatta 5-0 at Hamdan bin Rashid Stadium to seal a first UAE championship in six years with two games to spare. Ali Mabkhout was the standout, scoring three times.
The result means second-placed Al Ahli, last season’s champions, cannot catch Jazira, who now provisionally qualify for this year’s Fifa Club World Cup that takes place in the UAE in December.
For Ten Cate, it marks a superb 16 months in the job. The Dutchman, who this week turned down an offer to manage the Netherlands, also guided Jazira last May to the President’s Cup crown. “I’m a happy man,” Ten Cate said. “Our dream came true, finally. If you believe in something you can achieve it. We don’t have the best players – we know this – but for sure we have the best team. .
“If you score 67 goals, and concede only 15 – this is our 14th clean sheet – it’s something special. It’s really something special.
“The season is not over yet. We still have two games to go and the team said they want to break the all-time record in points and victories. Not one team before has won 22 games, and this is now what they’re aiming for: to write history, and real history.
“If you look at the amount of goals we scored, and conceded, we’re top in both. So there is only one team who deserve the championship this year. And that is us.”
Jazira’s march to the title breaks the stranglehold on the top-flight trophy shared by Ahli and Al Ain.
In the past five seasons, dating back to Jazira’s only other UAE championship, only those two clubs have won the title.
“It’s the second in the history of the club, so it means something really special to the club and to the fans,” Ten Cate said. “If you’re always trailing two other teams and now you are on top yourself, it gives great satisfaction – especially because of the work they did.
“When I started here, the group made a fantastic change where they realised if the group do it together, then we could win something, starting with the President’s Cup last year.
“But you have to strongly believe in this, you have to work your socks off, you have to be dedicated to the things you do. They grew into such a strong force and their only focus was to win the league, which they have done. They should be extremely proud.”
Jazira will be pleased with how they clinched the league crown.
Mabkhout opened the scoring against Hatta on 38 minutes, heading home Mbark Boussoufa’s cross. Home forward Samuel Gonclaves then doubled the visitors’ advantage six minutes after half time, when he glanced Leonardo’s corner into his own net before Mabkhout got his second not long after the hour.
Ailton Almeida added a fourth with four minutes remaining, leaving Mabkhout to round off the night and complete his hattrick from the penalty spot after a foul on Khalfan Mubarak. It took Mabkhout to 31 goals for the league season, lifting him seven clear of Al Wasl’s Fabio de Lima at the top of the scoring charts and extending his record for an Emirati in the professional era. “We have one phenomenon – Ali Mabkhout,” Ten Cate said. “He is special. Man, he is special. I feel sorry for him that he’s not so appreciated in this country. But I work with him every day and the guy has absolute special qualities.
“It’s not easy to score so many goals. He’s a local player now with 31 goals. Thirty-one in 23 matches. We’re very happy with him.
“Of course, the team is doing a lot of things for him, but he pays the team back with his goals and his skills.”