Abu Dhabi: The news of the tragic death of their former coach Caio Junior in a Colombia plane crash cast a pall of gloom, but Al Jazira players held themselves well together to script a 2-0 victory over Dibba in Arabian Gulf Gulf League (AGL) at the Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium on Tuesday evening.
A minute’s silence was observed before the start of play and the giant display board had a condolence message along with the image of the Brazilian coach, who led them through to the 2012 President’s Cup title.
Despite the sombre mood, Al Jazira were all focused on the task at hand and Fares Juma nodded the goals in either half.
Al Jazira, with this win, have boosted their chances of making it to the top of the table as they currently sit in second position with 20 points behind Al Wasl, who are on 22 but have played one match more. Dibba, on the other hand, occupies the 12th spot with five points.
Al Jazira’s Dutch coach Henk ten Cate, though happy with the three points, expressed his displeasure at the way his wards performed in the second half. “Delighted at winning full points but at the same time, the performance of my players in the second half of the game was disappointing. We should have at least scored four goals or more but we started the second half slowly. Our defence was strong and we denied Dibba of any formation which was good,” said ten Cate, adding that the absence of their Dutch playmaker Mbark Boussoufa due to suspension was one of the reasons for the dip in performance in the second half.
“Inspite of Boussoufa’s absence, we managed to use the set-pieces in our favour and implemented the corner kicks intelligently as we trained very well for that,” said ten Cate, who also came to the aid of Ali Mabkhout, who missed a penalty in the first half.
“Mabkhout missing a penalty is not a worry and does not need a lot of debate and controversy. There is no debate about the immense technical capabilities of Mabkhout, we must not forget he is not a robot or machine to score goals. It was a casual case of bad luck,” said ten Cate.
Elsewhere, Al Nasr riding on the brace by Burkina Faso winger Jonathan Pitroipa, thrashed Kalba 5-1. Al Nasr was clearly running away with the game after the first half leading 3-0 with goals from Tariq Ahmad, Kembo Ekoko and Pitroipa. Kalba’s Brazilian forward Ciel salvaged some pride by reducing the margin, but the visitors pumped in two more goals through Mohanad Abdul Raheem Karrar and Pitroipa to complete the tally.
The deceased Caio Junior had also coached Al Shabab and understandably, a gloom surrounded their match against Hatta and the contest ended in a lacklustre goalless draw. Al Shabab are now third with 18 points while Hatta have 12 points and are currently placed seventh.