Ahli (and Cannavaro and O'Leary) lose 2-0 to Dhafra

Well, that wasn't quite how it was supposed to go. Superstar import, glamour coach, big-money Dubai franchise ...

The idea was for Al Ahli to take the dusty bus ride down to Madinat Zayed, in Al Dhafra (sometimes known as the Western Region), and roll over a side that generally aspires to middle-of-the-packdom in Week 1 of the UAE Pro League season.

But Fabio Cannavaro, the renown Italian international and 2006 World Player of the Year, and David O'Leary, the man who once coached Leeds United and then Aston Villa in the Premier League, more than met their match against Dhafra, losing 2-0. And the faces of the superstar and coach seemed to be a bit red, and not just because of the summer heat.

Al Ahli had chances early, including one header that Cannavaro came within inches of poking in. But the home side then took control, and Al Ahli unraveled a bit.

Cannavaro picked up a yellow card in the eighth minute for handling the ball after he thought he was fouled (an assessment not shared by the referee), and was in the neighborhood for both Dhafra goals.

The blame for the first goes mostly to the right back Saad Suroor, who made a square pass into the middle of the field that was intercepted by Dhafra's active midfield and knocked forward to Abbas Lawan, who had gotten in behind the chasing Suroor and placed a shot to the left of Ahli keeper Obaid al Taweela and inside the post in the 38th minute. Lawan thereby making up, more or less, for a feeble penalty shot saved by al Taweela a few minutes before.

Dhafra got the insurance goal, and deservedly, about 10 minutes from time when the slender forward Mohammed Alsaedi rocketed in a shot from just inside the box, a shot that went unimpeded as Cannavaro turned his back on the hard-hit ball and it whistled cleanly into the net..

And there went Al Ahli, back on what must have been a very quiet (and very long) bus ride out of the environs of the Empty Quarter and back to the bright lights of Dubai, but with more than a little glitter knocked off some big reputations.