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ACL2020: Air conditioning helped Shabab Al Ahli overcome Shahr Khodro, says Zaragoza

Doha: Shabab Al Ahli Dubai FC recorded their first win of the 2020 AFC Champions League, beating Shahr Khodro FC 1-0 at Al Janoub Stadium in Group B on Monday.

A tightly contested game needed a moment of individual brilliance from teenager Harib Abdallah Suhail to tilt it in Shabab Al Ahli’s favour.

The winger embarked on a solo run from the halfway line before calmly placing the ball into the far corner to win it for his team with 15 minutes to go.

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The match marked Shabab Al Ahli’s return to competitive action for the first time since March, when the UAE Pro League season was abandoned to limit the spread of COVID-19 and head coach Gerard Zaragoza was pleased with his side’s performance on the night.

“I would like to congratulate my players who played really well in our first competitive match in six months. They fought hard and earned the three points,” said the Spaniard.

Group B - MD3: Shabab Al Ahli Dubai 1-0 Shahr Khodro FC

“It was not easy for us to play after such a long break, a lot of work was required to prepare a team that can show the world we are ready.

"We trained and prepared in extremely hot weather in UAE, but today we played in an air-conditioned stadium which made things easier for us, especially in transitions between defence and attack."

Both sides will be in dire need of a result when they face-off again on Thursday, with a defeat spelling elimination for Shahr Khodro and leaving qualification out of Shabab Al Ahli’s own hands.

“It will not be easy to prepare for the next game especially with just two days between the two matches. Also, now we know Shahr Khodro up close and they know us too. At the same time, we have 22 players in our squad, and they are all good and capable of fighting and playing at a top level.”

For Shahr Khodro, the result means they have now gone three matches without a point or a goal on what is proving to be a challenging maiden campaign in the AFC Champions League for the Iranian team.

“Congratulations to Shabab Al Ahli on the win, but I think we did well too today. In the first half we were a bit defensive, but in the second half we were much better,” said Shahr Khodro assistant coach Mohammad Nawazi.

“After conceding, we had several good chances to score and we could have got an equaliser, but at the end we have to accept this result.

“Now it is time for us to recover well for the next match. In this tournament you have to recover in three days, and with many players missing from our team for different reasons, we have to accept the situation and try our best to keep our chances of progress alive. We will try to recover tomorrow then focus fully on the next game.”

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