The wheels are back on Al Ain

The wheels are back on Al Ain
The win was a parting gift for Croatian coach Zlatko Dalic.

By James Jose

Published: Sun 29 Jan 2017, 8:06 PM

Last updated: Sun 29 Jan 2017, 10:10 PM

A little before 11pm on Saturday night, it was quite a sight. Two Dubai Police SUVs, one at the front and the other at the back, escorted the Al Ain team bus, with the Dubai Mounted Police from the Al Quasis Stables, on either side.
As the famous purple-livered bus wheeled out of the Rashid Stadium, there was a happy squad in there as they made their almost two-hour road trip back to the Garden City.
They had reason to be, as they had just beaten their old nemesis in the latter's den. In the context of things, they, both Al Ain and Al Ahli are trying to stay in the hunt for a championship, unlike the past five years where it has been hegemony between these two teams.
For Al Ain, this win would have come as a balm to heal some wounds of the past fortnight where they dropped points to basement team Bani Yas and then suffered chastening defeats to Emirates and Arabian Gulf League leaders Al Jazira.
Those events prompted their coach of three years - Zlatko Dalic, a man who steered them to the runners-up spot in last year's AFC Champions League and the semifinals in 2014, no less, to make the painful decision of leaving the club.
So, apart from keeping The Boss in the title fight, this win was a parting gift for the Croatian, who watched from the stands. And caretaker coach Josko Spanjic said as much. "This victory is for Zlatko," said Spanjic, who is also Al Ain's youth team manager.
"It was a beautiful evening for us. This game was very important for us and we had to play very well. We are so happy and we enjoyed this victory and I hope that we play better in the next game," added the Croatian.
Perhaps, Dalic's presence inspired the team to do even better, and the fact that it being an 'El Clasico,' adding to the storyline.
"The players showed excellent character and I'm happy for them because they played very well. They were well organised, disciplined and we scored two goals," Spanjic said.
Though Al Ain are second on the table, they are still some way off of making it a record 13 League titles. Al Ain are seven points adrift of Al Jazira but Spanjic felt that this win leaves the door ajar.
"We still see it as a chance. Now, we are in a much better position after this victory. And I hope that we play better in the next game. This victory is very important for us. We still have a chance in the competition," he said.
And that next step is against Al Nasr at home, their fortress - the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.
james@khaleejtimes.com




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