Abu Dhabi: Al Jazira coach Jurgen Streppel is convinced his side will continue evolving following a convincing 3-1 win over Khor Fakkan in their opening group match of the Arabian Gulf Cup in Abu Dhabi late on Thursday.
Debutant Sultan Al Ghaferi and Khalfan Mubarak scored in the second half after Faisal Al Matroushi’s opener for the Pride of Abu Dhabi had been cancelled out by Khor Fakkan’s Brazilian striker Pedro Junior at the Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium.
Streppel was pleased with his first victory after taking charge last month. “It’s very important that we started the season with a win,” Streppel said.
“Khor Fakkan made it difficult for us in the first half. But in the second half, we improved and that helped us create more chances. This shows that all the players are understanding our plan of how we want to play. This victory will improve the morale within the squad and give us a lot of confidence ahead,” the Dutchman added.
He was particularly impressed with the spirit shown by the youngsters in the team. “These are the things that we had worked on during our camp in Germany. The atmosphere in the team is very good and tonight’s result has given us all the confidence to look ahead,” he noted.
Al Jazira is set to let go of at least nine players into the UAE national squad that will start preparing under coach Bert van Marwijk for their opening match of the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifier against Malaysia on September 10. “It’s not just about the first team,” Streppel said.
“We can now prepare the young players so that they are ready to serve the interests of the team. The youngsters are getting their chances because they have worked hard during pre-season. The youngsters are talented and have plenty of energy which is good for the whole team,” he added.
Khor Fakkan coach Paulo Comelli hoped his team will continue improving. “We were up against one of the best teams in the league and we did well to match them in the first half. And then in the second, we started tiring and the intensity gap started getting bigger,” he admitted.
“We had some pretty decent individual performances from Fahad Haddid, Nawaf Rashid and Omar Ahmad. But this is a team sport and we need to get our act together for the next match,” he added.
In other matches played on Thursday, Ajman and Hatta played out a goalless draw, while Bani Yas stunned last year’s league champions Sharjah 2-0.
Ajman 0 Hatta 0
Al Jazira 3 Khor Fakkan 1
Bani Yas 2 Sharjah 0