Well done Al Jazira, you did UAE proud

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Well done Al Jazira, you did UAE proud
Real Madrid's Karim Benzema tries to score one past the Al Jazira goalkeeper but misses.

The Pride of Abu Dhabi gave Real Madrid a tough time before bowing out

By Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Thu 14 Dec 2017, 8:59 PM

Last updated: Thu 14 Dec 2017, 11:09 PM

On the line was a spot for the Fifa Club World Cup UAE 2017 final and Spanish club Real Madrid came from behind to snatch that opportunity from local side Al Jazira. But at the end of the day, the 'Pride of Abu Dhabi' had not only won hearts of a partisan crowd but also earned respect from the masters of the game.

The heavenly stars from Spain - Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Luka Modric and Casemiro - kept firing on all cylinders. They drained their armoury but couldn't find a gap through peerless captain and custodian Ali Khaseif. The Emirati hero from the first minute and till he left with an injury was unbelievably calm in his service. There were 35 attempts at goal during a non-stop raid by the Spanish giants at the Zayed Sports City Stadium on Wednesday night.

Real coach Zinedine Zidane was disappointed with such statistics and lauded Al Jazira for putting up a brave fight.

"I am a bit disappointed with that many missed chances. There isn't much to explain but we deserve to win and reach the final. Looking at the first half, it was very strange. We couldn't score despite so many opportunities. We were very patient and that's how we scored the first goal through Cristiano," Zidane said during the post-match press conference. And most likely for the first-time, he uttered the words - Al Jazira.

"The opponent did well on counter-attack. They were very well-prepared. I knew it was never going to be easy. I congratulate Al Jazira as they played a great match."

Most of the Real Madrid players too referred to Al Jazira as a UAE club, but they will certainly leave the country with Al jazira etched in their memory.

While Brazilian star Romarinho scored in the 53rd minute for Al Jazira. Real, following the exit of an injured Khaseif, netted through Ronaldo in the 41st minute and Gareth Bale in the 81st minute.

While Ronaldo became the tournament's all-time top scorer, Bale made a return as a substitute after a two-month injury lay-off. The Welshman was more forthcoming about Khaseif's and Al Jazira's efforts and said: "It was amazing. He made some nice saves. We were joking about it on the bench but it got more serious. We had a lot of chances but they made it very difficult for us. We have to give credit to them but we got the job done."

Man of the match Luka Modric too praised the sensational play by hosts. "They did really well. They sat deep and punished us on counter-attack. They played well and defended well. They are a good team," he said.

Al Jazira wowed not just Real Madrid, 37,000 majority 'Los Blancos' fans, the UAE residents watching on TV but those across the world too.

A proud coach Henk ten Cate said the club did an amazing job to put the UAE on the world football map. Even as the team were 2-0 up before the goal got disallowed, Ten Cate said a win was out of question.

"Miracles only happen once in 100 years. I am very pleased with our performance. Our goalkeeper was really brilliant in the first half. He got injured and I had to take him out in the second half. I was in disbelief when we scored the second and then I realised it's not going to be easy for them if it's going to be 2-0 as time was going against them then," he said. in a tongue-in-cheek manner.

The Dutchman said his school kids enjoyed that outing as he had told them it may not ever happen again. "Tactically we prepared the team during the last training. The boys did brilliant."

The coach is happy with the performance and thoroughly satisfied.

"I am happy that it stayed 2-1. It could easily have been 3 or 4. This gives a better feeling. The best team went through. I think the tournament deserves these two teams in the final."

Real Madrid now meet Gremio in the final and Al Jazira lock horns with CF Pachuca for third spot.

ashwani@khaleejtimes.com



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