Al Ain: Al Ain striker Marcus Berg said he always knew his keeper Khalid Eisa would bail him out after missing a vital penalty in the shootout against Wellington in Wednesday’s Fifa Club World Cup opener.
The 32-year-old Swede skied his spot-kick over the bar to hand the New Zealand amateurs advantage, but then Eisa denied Angus Kilkolly in the next kick and stopped Justin Gulley with the last to win 4-3.
“I believe in Khalid our keeper,” said Berg, who came on as a late substitute, despite having fever, to make it 3-3 on 86 minutes, sending the game into extra-time and penalties.
“I wanted to shoot in the middle but the ball went over so it was a bad penalty. All penalties missed are bad and I should do better, but in the end we managed to win with Khalid who saved two penalties.”
Of Eisa’s quality, he said: “He showed it today and has showed it in a lot of games for us.”
With part-timers Wellington having raced ahead to a 3-0 lead before half-time through Mario Barcia, Aaron Clapham and Mario Ilich, it was up to Berg to come on and level things four minutes from the end after Tsukasa Shiotani and Tonga Doumbia pulled two back either side of the interval.
“We weren’t surprised by Wellington, but I do think we should have managed the game better,” added Berg. “They had four shots and three goals in the first half, it can happen, but we have to do better, because we play even better teams now so we have to step it up.”
Al Ain now play Tunisia’s ES Tunis in Saturday’s quarter-final at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium from 8.30pm, by which time Berg will be hoping to be over his cold. “I shouldn’t have played at all but came on for the last 10 minutes and extra-time, which was hard, but I tried not to kill myself out there.
“I’ve been sick the past two days and today is worse, so hopefully tomorrow I will be better and can get fit for the next game. Me also, I have to step it up to help the team more.
“It’s amazing for a player to feel support,” he said of the Al Ain fans who were begging coach Zoran Mamic to bring the Swede on towards the end. “I will try to make them happy and pay them back on the pitch.
“I don’t know anything to be honest about ES Tunis, but we will stay in a hotel now, have some meetings and easy trainings before the next game.”