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Ali: Ability to adapt took Shabab Al Ahli past AGMK in AFC Champions League face-off

Riyadh: Shabab Al Ahli Dubai head coach Mahdi Ali praised his side’s ability to change,  which secured the UAE club a 3-1 win over AGMK FC in Group A of the 2021 AFC Champions League on Saturday. 

Three first half goals secured Shabab Al Ahli the crucial win, placing them third in the standings and giving them renewed hope that they can advance to the Round of 16 with matches against FC Istiklol of Tajikistan and Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal SFC to come.

Istiklol, who stunned Al Hilal 4-1 on Saturday, lead the group on seven points with Al Hilal second. AGMK are on four points.

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“It was a tough match and we thankfully secured a win,” said Ali. “I want to thank the efforts of the players and I’m very happy with the result.

“I didn’t tell my players anything special (before the match), but I did tell them that it was an important one, and that we had to stay much more focused. I said that we had to apply heavy pressure on them in the first 15 minutes. The players did well to pressure the team.”

Shabab Al Ahli adopted a more defensive approach in the second half as AGMK pushed forward in search of goals, and Ali was glad that his side could rapidly adjust to the changing pace of the match.

“I believe it was natural in the second to use five defenders because they had good attackers on the wings. So we increased the defenders.

“They changed their style of play, and we changed from attacking to defending. We had to adapt to the match.”

2021 AFC Champions League: Shabab Al Ahli 3-1 AGMK FC

AGMK head coach Mirdjalal Kasimov blamed the defeat on mistakes, saying his side will have to be more mentally prepared for their two remaining matches.

“We gave a lot of chances to the opponents and in the opening minutes of the match, they scored two goals,” Kasimov said. “I don’t want to talk about the third goal as it was our mistake."

“I wouldn’t say that we conceded the two goals because of fatigue. We made mistakes. The losing team will always try to go for goals and we made mistakes. It wasn’t a physical problem, but a problem with the mentality.

“This match is now history. We have to better prepare our players’ mentality for the upcoming matches.”

AGMK face a wounded Al Hilal on Tuesday while Shabab Al Ahli play Istiklol.

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