Dubai: Al Shabab coach Toninho Cerezo still sees hope in the GCC Champions League despite his team's 2-0 opening game loss to Kuwait's Al Arabi late on Tuesday.
"Not all is lost for us as this is just the first match of the competition. All we need to do is focus again and start our campaign in this competition from zero," Cerezo told Gulf News.
Al Arabi scored at the two ends of the match through Ali Hussain (fifth minute) and Igor Novakovic (90th minute) to walk away with full points from their opening Group A match of the GCC Champions League.
"If they can come here and win, why can we not go to Kuwait and win against them?" he questioned.
"There is still hope. We have to make a fresh start ... that's all."
Playing their first match of the season, Al Shabab looked vulnerable at the start. The visitors went on an all-out assault and their early pressure paid dividends as Hussain's strike went in off defender Essam Dahi.
Al Shabab regrouped well and should have got the equaliser in the 16th minute when Chilean Carlos Villaneuva forced his way through the Al Arabi defensive maze and shot hard, only to see Kuwaiti goalkeeper Shehab Ahmad bring off a flying save.
Al Arabi managed to keep their game compact, holding possession in the midfield most of the time. Al Shabab did really well to keep up their attacking intent, only to see a gutsy defence led by Dario Dabac and Elsner Rok do a tidy job behind.
The second half belonged entirely to the home team as Carlos Renato started playing a more versatile role in the midfield even as Villaneuva took the Al Arabi defence on the wrong foot time and again. But that was all there was to the Al Shabab attack as they seemed to lack teeth in front of the opponent's goal.
Al Arabi coach Dragan Skocic, meanwhile, was a relieved man: "I am satisfied with the result and the three points that come with it."
Skocic is no stranger to UAE soccer after having played as one of its professionals with Ittihad Kalba three seasons back. "I think we gave Al Shabab too much space to attack especially in the first half. We should have been closing down the defence, but we did not. So I am happy with the result even though I am not happy with the way we got these points," Skocic admitted.
The Croat further stated that Tuesday's result puts them in a strong position for qualifying to the next stage of the 12-team competition. Al Muharraq of Bahrain is the third team in Group A along with the Kuwaitis and Al Shabab.
"I respect all the teams, but it is a relief really to travel back to Kuwait with all three points," Skocic stated.