Dubai: Al Wasl are confident of booking their spot in next season’s AFC Champions League after getting past Al Shabab 2-1 in their penultimate round of the Arabian Champions League (AGL) game on Thursday.
The three points propelled Al Wasl into second place with 54 points.
And The Cheetahs also go into their final round of the AGL with an advantage over the big two of UAE football — Al Ahli and Al Ain, who are in third and fourth with 53 and 52 points, respectively.
With just one round remaining, Al Jazira have already staked their claim to one of the three spots in the AFC Champions League with an unbeatable 65 points at the top of the 14-team standings.
With a visit to Hatta on May 12, Al Wasl are one step clear of the threat from Al Ahli and Al Ain. A win for all three teams will keep the AGL standings unaltered, leaving Al Ain the onerous task of going through a home and away play-off qualifying phase.
Al Ahli will host already relegated Bani Yas, while Al Ain will welcome Kalba in the final round of their campaign on May 13, knowing well that their fate will depend on each other’s results.
Al Wasl, however, had to dig in deep for full points against a steadily improving Al Shabab. They recovered from a 54th-minute snap strike from young Mohammad Juma [Pele] to equalise through Fabio De Lima’s piercing free kick in the 70th and then substitute Ali Saleh Ali nodded home during the first minute of injury time for a win.
“It was important to win tonight as it was our last home match this season. Congrats to my players as they showed their personality in this win. We know that this will not be enough. We have to improve much more and go into the last match to bring home the three points and with it the AFC Champions League spot,” Rodolfo Arruabarrena told media at the post-match press conference.
“A draw would have been a fair result for this match. But we had the thirst for full points and we needed some luck, and finally we got it. We played with our hearts and not with the head,” he added.
The Argentinian coach insisted that a spot in next season’s AFC Champions League is one of the big goals before The Cheetahs, irrelevant of the other two big clubs who are also in the fray.
“We have one week to work further on the quality of our play. The match against Hatta will be the most important as we need to win it so that we defend our second position in the league,” Arruabarrena said.
“We deserve this [AFC Champions League spot], and we need to just go all out and put up a much-improved display and make our fans, administration and ourselves proud,” he added.