Abu Dhabi: Mbark Boussoufa’s fitness would have been a worry for Al Jazira coach Henk Ten Cate but in Wednesday’s 1-0 win against Auckland City, the Moroccan mid-fielder gave clear evidence that he was back at his best.
Coming into the crucial contest after a three weeks injury layoff, Boussoufa worked like a well-lubricated machine at the axis. It would have been heartening for the Jazira fans to see the attacking mid-fielder’s defence splitting passes putting Auckland City in lot of bother.
“It’s been a while since I was away. To come in after a three week break and to perform feels great and I’m really happy about that. I felt nice about my game today. It was not easy to come straight into such a match,” said a pleased looking Boussoufa, who had also played a key role earlier this year in helping his national team qualify for the 2018 Fifa World Cup Russia following a 20-year absence from the event.
The victory against Auckland City would do a world of good going into the contest against Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds felt Boussoufa.
“The win was very important for us. First of all we are representing UAE and you don’t want to be knocked off in the first round,” said Boussoufa, who, however, was disappointed with his sides approach in the second half despite taking the lead.
“I think we ourselves made it a bit difficult in the second half. We were protecting the 1-0 instead of going for 2-0 win. We were lucky sometimes in the second half. We put ourselves into difficult situations but the important thing is we won,” revealed Boussoufa adding that the victory brings in a lot of confidence in the Jazira camp and they can now look forward to the real challenge in the competition.
“It is a win that brings a lot of proudness. We now get to play the Club World Cup officially you can say. That is the most important thing as we wanted to be with all this big champions.
“Nobody expected us to be champions of the UAE last year but these are champions of the continent which is huge. “We already know against Urawa it is going to be a different game and even more difficult. I’m looking forward to contribute more and we are going to do our best. Try to do as much as possible,” said Boussoufa, who hailed the performance of his skipper Ali Kasheif in the goal saying those important movements saved the day for Jazira.
“This is what you need sometimes in this kind of games, some stunning saves. I would still say it was thanks to us that we held on.”
Despite the success, Boussoufa feels his team need not look too far ahead and should focus on the next match instead.
“We should be only focusing on Saturday and I’m not even talking about Real Madrid semis. You got to respect the opponents. These are not going to be easy games, especially for us. We are coming as a Champion from a nation but totally new. Some young guys never played at this level and the Japanese team is very good team.”