Al Jazira boss Franky Vercauteren admits he has been surprised by Al Ain’s form in the absence of star man Asamoah Gyan.
Al Ain have picked up seven points from a possible 12 on offer since Gyan departed for the African Cup of Nations with Ghana following their 4-0 win over Emirates Club on December 30.
While The Boss surrendered their unbeaten league record with a 2-0 loss at Al Nasr last month, they still retain a three point lead over Nasr in the Pro League table, and are a further point clear of defending champions Jazira.
And Vercauteren concedes he has been impressed with the resolve shown by Jazira’s title rivals to absorb the blow of losing their top scorer, who has netted 12 league goals in just 10 games this term.
Vercauteren, who earlier this season described Gyan as “the most efficient and most important player in the league,” said: “Yes, I have been surprised. They have done very well without Gyan. Obviously, we expected, or at least we hoped, from Jazira’s side that they would not continue or at least have some problems without him.
“But I think they have done well because they have not complained about the fact he was not there which gave confidence to the other players. It’s a pity,” added Vercauteren with a wry smile before adding: “You have to be strong enough to find other solutions, and that’s what they did. So congratulations to them.”
Meanwhile, Vercuateren has hailed his own talisman, Ricardo Oliveira, as one of the best strikers he has ever worked with. The Brazilian leapfrogged Gyan at the top of the goalscoring charts with a four-goal blitz in Jazira’s 5-0 win over Sharjah last weekend, taking his tally to 13 goals for this season.
“If you look in general, how he works, how he trains, how he is as a man, how efficient he is for the team and how important he is off the pitch, it makes him a very, very important player and certainly one of the best,” said Vercauteren.
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