Dubai: Coach Ivan Leko has come out strongly against Al Ain’s critics while insisting his side is a work in progress after the Boss had secured a 3-1 win over Al Wasl in second round action of the Arabian Gulf League (AGL), late on Thursday.
After taking the lead in the 15th minute on a Wellinton Soares goal, Al Wasl saw the visitors draw level within three minutes as Japanese Tsukasa Shiotani’s stiff grounder found the far corner of the net.
The introduction of national team winger Bandar Al Ahbabi on the hour-mark turned the game as the 29-year-old scored with a scorching shot within a minute and then set up Togo’s Kodjo Laba for his first goal of the season for his new club.
Leko was well aware that his team is a work in progress following last week’s hard-fought 3-2 win against Kalba in Round One of the AGL.
“Tonight we were the better side and we deserved to win. We had better quality, except for the first 15 minutes. But the important thing are the three points that we got under difficult circumstances,” Leko told media in his post-match comments.
“I know there are strong critics of my team, but we showed great personality and a will to fight till the last minute. This win will help in building our confidence further. Through most of the first half, we were the better team, and the extra quality in players always comes handy. This result doesn’t mean that we stop doing what we are doing at the moment. Football doesn’t stop,” he added.
Leko, who has made 13 appearances with the Croatian national team during his playing career, refused to believe that anyone could be a critic of decisions taken in the interest of the team. “Everyone has a job to do. My job is to coach this team into something big, while your job is to let fans know how the team is faring. People are only interested in probing into the privacy of the team, when it is not their business,” Leko pointed out.
“Earlier, there were stories about Amoori [Omar Abdul Rahman, who is now with Al Jazira]. I want to give a clear message to all these critics to stop such stories and let the players show what they are capable of doing on the pitch. I am sad and I need to say this in the open. It’s like someone only wants to disturb you. Please leave us alone to do our job instead of being super critics on what we do on the pitch,” he added.
Al Wasl coach Laurentiu Reghecampf lamented a lack of depth in his squad due to injuries to key players, including defender Ali Salmeen. “And the player who kicked him on the nose went free even without a yellow card, while we will have to look at alternatives to plug the holes and make this into a winning outfit,” he said.
“Till that injury we had done well to control the match and even take the lead. But after that we had a few inexperienced players going in and things were never the same,” he added.