Coach Leko chuffed about Al Ain's showing
SALUTE: Japanese defender Tsukasa Shiotani (left) celebrates the first goal by greeting his teammates - AGL
Dubai - The Croatian says substitute Bandar Al Ahbabi made the difference in team's 3-1 win over Al Wasl
Al Ain coach Iva Leko was chuffed about his team's performance and said that they showed tremendous fighting spirit and the desire to triumph against a strong side.
'The Boss' ran out 3-1 victors in an intriguing Arabian Gulf League fixture at the Zabeel Stadium with Japanese defender Tsukasa Shiotani, substitute Bandar Al Ahbabi and the impressive Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba, amongst the goals, after Welliton Soares had given 'The Cheetahs' the lead.
The garden city club kept their unbeaten start intact while Al Wasl will things to ponder about after suffering their first defeat.
"We had some difficulties at the start of the first half and we received an early goal. But we were very focused on the game and my players showed great fighting spirit and a real desire to win the game," said Leko.
"The win will enhance the confidence of the players and gives them the motivation for matches in the future," added the Croatian.
The 41-year-old Leko said that substitute Bandar Al Ahbabi made the difference after he had come on for the young upstart Andrija Radovanovic, on the hour.
And the midfield lynchpin made an immediate impact, scoring Al Ain's second, two minutes later. And he celebrated that with Jamal Maroof's imitation of cleaning Al Ahbabi's boots.
A little later, Al Ahbabi provided the assist for Laba.
"Bandar Al Ahbabi made the difference as he scored and also helped set up our third goal," Leko pointed out.
Despite the euphoria of the win, Leko said that they are still a work in progress and had gleaned a few important lessons from the game.
"We lost the ball easily in the first half, on more than one occasion. So, we need to work on that and try and make sure it doesn't happen again. We need to work on our strengths and weaknesses.
Meanwhile, Ajman stunned Al Nasr 3-1 at the Rashid Stadium, while on Friday night, Shabab Al Ahli knocked five past Fujairah for a 5-1 verdict at the Rashid Stadium. Khor Fakkan and Hatta played out a 1-1 stalemate in the battle of the promoted clubs.