Dubai: Al Shabab coach Marcos Paqueta has set his players the target of a top-four finish in the Etisalat Pro League after leap-frogging Al Nasr into fifth place following a 3-2 away win over the Oud Mehta club on Friday.
The 55-year-old Brazilian had been under immense pressure after taking just five points from the first eight games, but after picking up a maximum 21 points from the last seven matches, belief is back in camp.
“We looked at Al Nasr as a strong competitor coming into this match, with only two points difference between us,” said Paqueta. “Now with these three points, we are able to skip over them and make our way towards our overall aim of reaching the top four.”
Edgar Bruno snatched the late winner for Al Shabab after following up Jociel Ferraira’s shot, which was parried clear by keeper Ahmad Shambieh, for Bruno to plant into an empty net.
The visitors already had the momentum after Abdullah Hassan equalised with 10 minutes to go, tapping home after Azizbek Haydarov’s effort came back off the crossbar.
This had followed a period of dominance from Al Nasr, for whom Leo Lima had cancelled out Bruno’s eighth-minute headed opener with a penalty on the half-hour. Lima then put Al Nasr in front from a free-kick five minutes after the interval.
Of Al Nasr’s inability to hold the lead, Paqueta said: “I don’t think the win has anything to do with Al Nasr’s tactics at 2-2. We have a certain philosophy of attacking football, whether at home or away, and that sees the team create a lot of chances. We controlled possession and our philosophy is working well. We deserved this win because we fought until the end.”
He added: “It was a tough match between two equal teams. I said before the game that set-pieces would play a big role and they did. We treated this more like a chess match and moved our players like chess pieces. We were successful with that and I’m very happy with the determination shown, especially from the young players, who have shown themselves to be great prospects.”
Going forward, Paqueta said reliance on this youth would be vital. “We have a separate plan for every match, whether that be league, the President’s Cup, Etisalat Cup or the Asian Champions League. There’s a lot of pressure on us having progressed in all four competitions. We’ll do our best to go as far as possible [in each], but we’ll have to rotate our squad to give everyone a chance to take part.”
Meanwhile, Al Nasr coach Walter Zenga was quick to shoulder the blame for his side’s fourth defeat of the season. “We conceded late on the counter and it’s my responsibility for allowing them to take the advantage and come out winners.
“But I’d rather have a side that goes all-out for the win at 2-2, than be a team that sits back and defends and is scared of the opposition.”
Al Dhafra 0 Al Ain 3
Ajman 2 Al Jazira 4
Dibba Fujairah 0 Al Shaab 1
Al Wahda 2 Ittihad Kalba 1
Al Ahli 4 Al Wasl 0
Al Nasr 2 Al Shabab 3
Bani Yas 5 Dubai 0