Mamic targets Asian crown next

Dubai: Al Ain coach Zoran Mamic lashed out at critics after guiding his team to their second title in as many weeks as the curtains came down on the domestic football season on Thursday.

Referring to “senior experts” who were critical about Al Ain’s chances for trophies this season, Mamic said: “I think we have silenced all our critics. And while we can gloat about winning two trophies in our golden jubilee year, we are also aware that we would be more than delighted to add a third trophy by winning the AFC Champions League for a second time in our 50-year history.”

Mamic’s team, who finished champions in the 2018 Arabian Gulf League (AGL) last weekend— a record 13th title — added a second trophy with a 2-1 verdict against Al Wasl in the 2018 President’s Cup final at the Zayed Sports City Stadium late on Thursday.

Esmail Ahmad and Marcus Berg got the goals for the champions on either side of half-time, while Caio Canedo bagged a consolation goal at the end of the match for Al Wasl.

“We didn’t play the way we wanted to. But we did just enough to win a second trophy and give much joy to all our fans in the end,” Mamic said.

“The players have been tired. Last Saturday we played the final round of the AGL, and prior to that we had the semi-finals of the President’s Cup. It has been one long and unending season, but my players have shown real character as a team,” the 46-year-old Croatian added.

“When we had reached the first leg of the AGL, there were senior experts who went on saying that Al Ain will not win anything this year. But today, we are all a very happy bunch of people for proving all these critics wrong. I don’t know how they judged us, but today we stand as a team that can achieve anything. We didn’t speak then simply because we wanted to wait for this day to reply with actions,” he said.

Mamic, however, was not exactly pleased with the intensity from his players of the final. “I knew it would be up and down because these boys have been stretched. However, we cannot afford even a small break now as there are further challenges lined up for us next week,” he added.

Al Ain will be one of two teams from the UAE involved with the Round of 16 matches of the AFC Champions League. Al Ain play at home against Qatar’s Al Duhail on May 8 and away on May 15. Al Jazira will be up against Iran’s Persepolis on May 7 with the return leg in Iran a week later.

“The AFC Champions League is very much a target for us. We have the style and the dedication to win another trophy and the players have all shown their commitment in taking this squad through to a third trophy this season,” Mamic added.