RIYADH: Al-Wahda coach Henk ten Cate has revealed his delight with his players’ attitude after the Abu Dhabi team on Tuesday recovered from a two-goal deficit to defeat Al-Rayyan SC 3-2 in Group E of the 2021 AFC Champions League.
Fares Juma’s stoppage-time winner secured Al-Wahda their first win of the campaign, taking them to second in the group on four points, five behind leaders Persepolis who defeated FC Goa 2-1 in the other Tuesday match.
Dutchman ten Cate praised his players for the fightback that saw three goals in 24 minutes dramatically defeat their Qatari opponents.
Speaking to the AFC official website, he said: “I’m a proud man. Especially to see where we are coming from. We had to play with a man down in the last 15 minutes and needed some luck. You need to have luck to win games and we had some today.
“I brought in a few players late in the second half and one of them was a 16-year-old (Awadh Mohamed). Then suddenly something changed within the team. Those players changed the way the game was played. They brought some renewed energy to the team and scored one goal.
“I’m extremely proud of my team, I know how much this win means to them. We have injured players, with little rest to restore our strength and I’m really happy with their team effort. Everybody in the UAE should be proud,” he added.
Al-Rayyan were the better side for most of the first half but started to fade after the break, and another collapse followed after a similar one against Persepolis.
After another three goals were conceded having taken the lead, Al-Rayyan find themselves at the bottom of Group E with coach Laurent Blanc admitting that the latest defeat to Al-Wahda has made things more difficult for the club’s progress into the Round of 16.
“It was a disaster. Honestly, I felt we played well. It was incredible the way we played. But we made some mistakes and conceded goals,” Blanc told the AFC website.
“I think both teams wanted to play good football and as you can see it was not a boring match. At the end of the day, to lose the match at this stage of the competition makes things complicated for us.
“If anyone saw us up by two goals, it should be 3-0 and then game over. But instead, we conceded and lost the match. That is football,” the Frenchman said.
Al-Rayyan will have a chance to make amends when the two teams square off again on Friday.