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Al Wahda’s ten Cate ecstatic with AFC Champions League Round-of-16 progress

Goa: Head coach Henk ten Cate expressed his happiness following Al Wahda’s 2-0 win over India’s FC Goa on Matchday Six, which sealed the UAE club's place in the 2021 AFC Champions League Round of 16 on Thursday.

The Abu Dhabi-based side advanced to the Round of 16 as one of the best three second-placed finishers, alongside Islamic Republic of Iran’s Persepolis, who finished as group winners after registering a 4-2 win against Qatar’s Al Rayyan.

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Al Wahda played against an FC Goa side who were missing several foreign players, including captain Edu Bedia, Jorge Ortiz and head coach Juan Ferrando due to the travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ten Cate expressed his sympathy to FC goa for their predicament.

“This is not FC Goa, it is a depleted team and I feel sorry about it. The head coach and some of the foreign players had to leave,” said ten Cate.

2021 AFC Champions League: FC Goa 0-2 Al Wahda FSCC

Dheeraj Singh, who had been a revelation for FC Goa, limped off in the 69th minute due to injury and as he was walking off the pitch, ten Cate shook his hands to show appreciation for the 20-year-old showstopper.

“I’ve seen him (Dheeraj Singh) play in some of the games and he is really good and especially today, he saved five or six shots on goal. He deserved my handshake. He’s a very good goalkeeper and I wish him the best of luck because of his injury.

“We missed too many chances but at the end of the day we are very happy that we qualified to the next stage. This is our goal and we achieved it. I’m happy for us."

Clifford Miranda, the assistant head coach for FC Goa who assumed duties following Ferrando’s departure, said he was proud of his players for showing courage against Al Wahda.

“It’s always difficult to play under these circumstances. It’s a different matter if you have played in the last two games. It’s how you perform when you’ve not been playing and I’m proud of how my players performed today,” said Miranda.

“We could have made something out of the game but we came up against one of the best teams in Asia and even though we lost, the players gave a fantastic performance."

“Honestly, it’s not very difficult playing without Juan (Ferrando). He had a plan, we have gone through it several times during training sessions and my job was to execute it. The most difficult part of this competition was playing every two days.

“I must say, when Goa qualified into the group, nobody would have guessed that we would finish third with three points. I’m glad people are noticing us when there are teams like Persepolis, Al Wahda and Al Rayyan. But look at us, credit to the players, they did a fantastic job.

“It’s the off season now but I'm sure the club would want to participate in these type of tournaments year after year. This is the best way to improve Indian football and to take the trajectory towards the top by playing with the best teams in Asia.”

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