Sharjah’s players share a light moment during a practice session.
Mohammad Abdullah, Senior Sports Reporter
Sharjah can take a step forward towards their President’s Cup title defence by beating Ajman in the second leg of the semi-final and book their berth in the title showdown on Friday.
Sharjah, who have a lead of one-goal in their first leg, are the favourites. Sharjah coach Cosmin Olaroiu said that they are confident but wary of Ajman.
“We have a 2-1 advantage. But we will start from 0-0. It is a new game and every match is different. We will not think about the one-goal lead. Ajman are a very strong side. They are capable of bouncing back,” said Olariou.
“We are confident of putting up a winning performance. But we will play at their home ground. They will have that advantage. Ajman can be very dangerous on their home turf in front of their fans.
“But as professionals, we are used to dealing with this kind of pressure situation. We will try our best to win and move into the final.
Ajman will look to capitalize on home advantage to bounce back at the Rashid Bin Saeed Stadium, which is their home ground.
Ajman were defeated 1-0 in their away match against Sharjah in the first leg. They need to score at least two goals and also stop Sharjah from scoring any to force an aggregate win.
Ajman coach Goran Tufegdzic exuded confidence in his players and said that they are capable of bouncing back.
“We are down by one goal and we will have to curtail that deficit. But the good thing is that we were able to score in an away match. Now we are playing on the home turf and we will have the support of the fans. We are confident of winning and moving into the final,” said Tufegdzic.
In the other semi-final, Al Ain will host Al Wasl at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium for the second leg of the semi-final. The first leg ended in a 0-0 draw.
Al Wasl club coach Juan Antonio Pizzi i and player Fabio Lima spoke about their preparations for the second leg.
“We are confident of winning on their home ground. We know it is going to be a tough match as Al Ain is a very strong team and they are playing in their home conditions.
“They become more lethal in such conditions and they have a very strong fan base. We are starting from the scratches as none of us are carrying any advantage. We the mood is good in the campo and the players are raring to go and prove themselves,” he added.
The regulations indicate that in the event that two teams have an equal number of points after the return match in the semi-finals, the team that scored a greater number of goals qualifies.
In the case, that the two teams score the same number of goals in the home and away matches after the end of the original time for the return match, the game is extended for two additional halves.
The duration of each will be 15 minutes, and in the event that the tie continues, the rule of penalty kicks will be applied to determine the team that qualifies for the final match of the tournament.
Meanwhile, Al Ain’s coach Sergey Rebrov said that his team is facing an important challenge and we must play with high concentration.
“In the first leg, both teams did not create many opportunities, and everyone knows the importance of playing the first leg with a clean sheet and the return match.
“It will be different because we play on our land and among our fans, and we are required to show fighting spirit, impose our control over the course of the game, and do everything possible to make Al Ain fans happy,” said Rebrov.
Commenting about Al Wasl’s recent loss in the league, he said: “We are not concerned with the results of the Al Wasl matches, but rather they are the ones who have to care about the results of their team, and I am sure that their match against us will be different, and therefore we have to focus and everyone understands the importance of this,” he added.
Al Wasl had to face a big 4-2 loss against Ajman, where they conceded four goals.
“The first half of our match against Khorfakkan did not show us at the required level, and the most important thing is that our net did not concede any goals, although the Al Wasl team conceded three goals in the first half of their last match.
“And again, I don’t think the result of their last match means anything, this is a match in a different tournament and we have to be focused, show respect for the opponent and focus on our team’s affairs,” he stressed.
“I always repeat that I feel happy to see Al Ain fans, especially when they move behind the team wherever its matches are held. I hope the stands will be full, which raises the morale of the players who play for them. I am sure that the players, once they see the fans, will have the incentive to play more.”