Al-Ain coach praises side's fighting spirit and backs them for more FIFA Club World Cup glory

The relief on the Al-Ain players' faces was obvious for all to see. (AFC)
Updated 13 December 2018
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Al-Ain coach praises side's fighting spirit and backs them for more FIFA Club World Cup glory

LONDON: Zoran Mamic praised his Al-Ain players’ grit and determination after they came back from a 3-0 deficit to beat Team Wellington on penalties in the FIFA World Club Cup.
Playing at home “The Boss” looked anything but menacing, as the amateurs from New Zealand took a shock three-goal lead after 44 minutes. But strikes from Tsukasa Shiotani and Tongo Doumbia gave the hosts hope. Then substitute Marcus Berg came off the bench to grab the equalizer with just five minutes to go to set up extra-time. Two tired teams were unable to force a winner in the extra 30 minutes and Al-Ain held their nerve to win the shootout 4-3.
Mamic’s men were supposed to brush past the Kiwis, but the Al-Ain coach said the manner of the win could stand them in good stead going into the quarterfinals and possibly beyond.
“I am so proud of my players and their determination and fighting spirit that led them to achieve the desired goal and qualify for the quarterfinal stage when they were able to beat the visiting team, New Zealand’s Team Wellington,” Zoran said.
“We missed the factors of concentration and confidence in certain parts of the match, giving the opponent the chance to take the lead by three clean goals. However, Shiotani’s goal in the last minutes of the first half gave us the push and the power to return to the match and the team’s reaction was up to expectations.”
The home side now face Tunisian side Esperance Sportive de Tunis at their Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium tomorrow, knowing they will have to play much better to stand a chance of playing Real Madrid in the last-four.
Esperance are making their first appearance at the tournament since 2011 and are all too aware that Al-Ain will pose a big threat to their dream of facing the Spanish giants.
“Without a doubt Al-Ain will have a lot of supporters in the stands and that will give them a boost … it will be a tough match.”
For Team Wellington it was a case of what might have been. While they were gutted to let slip the three-goal advantage Aaron Clapham said he and his teammates could hold their heads up high.
“It’s a mixture of disappointment and pride,” the midfielder said. “I’m really proud of the team – everyone involved. It’s heart-breaking to lose on penalties. But we’re really proud of the way we played.”


Naomi Osaka not worried about form after shock Dubai defeat

Updated 2 min 28 sec ago
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Naomi Osaka not worried about form after shock Dubai defeat

  • World No. 1 easily beaten but claims all is well with her game.
  • Osaka surprisingly split with coach in run up to Dubai tournament.

LONDON: Naomi Osaka said she is not worried after the world No. 1 was shocked in the second round at the Dubai Tennis Championships.
The two-time Grand Slam champion was convincingly beaten 6-3, 6-3 by Kristina Mladenovic in her first match since she memorably won the Australian Open last month — her second consecutive Slam success.
Heading into the clash there was much talk about her lack of action on court and her split with coach Sascha Bajin. She said there was nothing to the split with Bajin other than “happiness was more important than success.”
And having been easily beaten by the Dubai-based Frenchwomen Osaka said she was not troubled by her form.
“The Australian Open was not even a month ago,” Osaka said.
“I mean, this was just one match. I feel like even if I don’t win any matches for the rest of the year, I wouldn’t say I’m concerned.
“I think I’m pretty young. I still feel like I have a lot to learn.”
The Japanese star, who became the first Asian woman to reach the summit of the rankings, added that the shock defeat might actually work in her favor.
“For me, that’s sort of my biggest thing after this match. I think I play well after I lose a sort of bad match,” the 21-year-old said.
“I’m just looking forward to the next tournament.
“Before US Open (which she won), I lost those three matches in a row. I was just thinking, like, ‘wow, am I ever going to do anything in my life?’”