Ahli extend lead at the top

Cataline happy with the fighting spirit of his players in win over Al Shabab

By Hisham Al Gizouli

Published: Mon 23 Dec 2013, 12:35 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 6:53 PM

Walid Abbas of Al Ahli and Adeilson Pereira de Mello of Al Shabab vie for the ball

For Al Ahli’s assistant coach Cataline what matters is the strong fighting spirit which the players have displayed in their shutout 2-0 home victory against Al Shabab that strengthened their grip over the Arabian Gulf League’s table.

An own goal from Edgar Bruno forced by a Walid Abbas header, and a strike from Luis Jiminez earned the Red Knights crucial full points that extended their lead to four points ahead of Al Shabab with 15 round remaining. “I’m truly delighted,” Cataline said. “We have dropped seven points in our last three starts, and today the boys are back to their best,” he added. “Our first Pro-League’s defeat at the hands of Al Wasl was painful, but the players were able to throw it behind their backs and regain self-confidence. The head coach and his team have been working with the players to restore the feeling that they can win because they deserve to win,” he went on.

Cataline noted that there’s a still a long way to go with 15 tough clashes in front of them before the end of the championship. “We will celebrate the victory today and from tomorrow we will start preparations for the upcoming challenge. Our top priority is to keep the same fighting spirit and determination because they are very crucial for our campaign,” he said.

Cataline thanked the faithful fans for cheering the players pointing out that without this firm stand of their supporters nothing would have been achieved. “We were under a strong pressure before the match because we didn’t win in our last three starts. I don’t know whether the players have felt the same pressure, but they did well and played a big game,” he said.

The game was played at a frenetic pace and every 50/50 ball hotly contested right from the start, with Al Ahli’s Ciel winning the first corner of the game in the opening minute in front of the away fans section. Grafite hit a rising shot in the 2nd minute and after 5 minutes Al Shabab registered an effort of their own; a terrific one from distance by Adeilson, which skimmed the top of the crossbar and rippled the outside of the net. Hugo Viana’s set pieces proved threatening as his 7th minute free kick curled narrowly over the crossbar, and five minutes later one of the Portuguese midfielder’s deliveries was to lead to a goal. Viana’s ball found Walid Abbas in the box and the UAE national team defender’s header across the face of goal was diverted into his own net by the unfortunate Al Shabab striker Edgar Bruno, as Al Ahli seized a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute.

But it wasn’t long until the hosts extended their lead, and in fine style through Luis Jiminez, who got a perfect connection on Ciel’s floated cross to thrash it emphatically into the net and make it 2-0 in the 64th minute. In the 77th minute Al Ahli substitute Ahmed Khalil, on for the productive Al Hammadi, almost had an instant impact as he entered the fray and linked up well with Grafite and Luis Jiminez to almost force another own-goal by Al Shabab, but to the relief of the team in green, the ball skipped just wide of the post.

A minute later Ciel hit the side netting, but a goal against his former club was not written in the script as Al Ahli survived a number of late Al Shabab attacks. The game saw a red card in injury time, when Edgar Bruno — so often the hero for Al Shabab this season — completed a miserable evening as he received his second booking for a dive in the area, and Al Ahli ran out 2-0 winners.

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