Dubai: Sharjah coach Abdul Aziz Al Anbari has called on his team to be mindful of tougher challenges looming ahead in their charge towards a sixth Arabian Gulf League (AGL) crown.
Champions in the inaugural campaign of the league in 1973-74, Sharjah went on to add another four titles with their last one coming up at the end of the 1995-96 season. This year, The King have been on a roll as they lead the 14-team standings with an unbeaten record so far after 15 rounds.
On Thursday night, Sharjah rode on a 74th-minute strike from Ryan Mendes to further consolidate their place at the top with a hard-earned 1-0 away win against 10-man Al Nasr. That win took Sharjah to 37 points, chased down by defending champions Al Ain (32 points), while Al Jazira remained in third with 31 points following their 5-0 romp over Fujairah earlier on Thursday.
“Sharjah deserved to win. We knew it would have been tough against a strong team like Al Nasr, but we also knew that we had to keep on pressing for a goal. Once we finally got the goal we wanted we knew we fully deserved the three points tonight,” Al Anbari said.
“We need to be on the watch for many more such encounters in the future. We are at the top of the standings and everyone wants to win against us. It’s not going to get any easier from now on for sure,” he confided.
The Sharjah coach further insisted that there are a few aspects that his team needs to work on if they are to continue to be genuine title contenders. In the last match [against Al Dhafra] we had the same problem of scoring goals, and it is not that our strikers are not trying or creating opportunities. It’s just a question of getting it right,” Al Anbari said.
“We have another eleven matches to go in the league and I am sure no point is going to come easy to us. I will continue speaking with the players that we need to keep the same mentality of fighting till the end. For now, we will concentrate on the positives,” he added.
Al Nasr continued in ninth place with 16 points and their Brazilian coach Caio Zanardi was hopeful of better moments ahead. “This was a very hard match for us. When we are with eleven players we were in control and superior. But after that red card [to Tariq Abdullah] things didn’t go our way. But I am proud of the way my players responded with ten men on the field. Perhaps a 1-1 draw would have been a just result,” Zanardi said.
“My mission here is to continue working and improving the team, and we can clearly see that we are getting better. We are very competitive, and the young players who are now in are making a difference for us. We can only get better from here on,” he added.