AGL talking points: Al Ain hitting their stride after early stumbles

Champions Al Ahli enjoy light relief after beating Kalba while Fujairah make bold move in sacking Abdulqadir, writes John McAuley
Fares Juma of Al Ain celebrates after scoring a goal against Al Wahda during their Arabian Gulf League match at the Hazza bin Zayed stadium in Al Ain on December 10, 2014. Satish Kumar / The National
Fares Juma of Al Ain celebrates after scoring a goal against Al Wahda during their Arabian Gulf League match at the Hazza bin Zayed stadium in Al Ain on December 10, 2014. Satish Kumar / The National

Al Ain signal intent

If an old football line states that the table does not lie, then the theory has found a little contention in the shape of Al Ain.

Asian Champions League commitments disrupted the Garden City club’s early season Arabian Gulf League programme, meaning they have been playing catch-up.

Yet with two matches in hand, the 11-time UAE champions sit two points off the top, with Wednesday’s 4-0 thrashing of Al Wahda constituting a clear statement of intent.

Wahda are the league’s frontrunners, were unbeaten in 20 matches and seem resolute in their most improbable of title bids. However, that Al Ain put them to the sword said as much about the club’s pedigree as it did their rivals’.

Al Ain were without Omar Abdulrahman and Asamoah Gyan, but cruised to victory. They will look forward to the remainder of the season with relish.

The truth is, Al Ain have the strongest squad in the division; they should be viewed as favourites for the league crown.

Light relief for Al Ahli

These have been fraught times for the reigning UAE champions, so while Wednesday’s victory against Kalba was expected, it was also very welcome.

Much-needed, too. Ahli have been a shadow of the side that cruised to the title last season, and entered the match without a league win in almost two months. Coach Cosmin Olaroiu was apparently beginning to feel the strain, as supporters questioned his methods and credentials. So defeating Kalba has provided some room to breathe.

Granted, Kalba represent the division’s worst side, with 10 defeats in 11 rounds, but anything less than three points would have only increased calls for Olaroiu to go.

Obviously, he deserves more time, although Ahli require real reinvigoration. The loss of Ciel, through injury, at the season’s onset has hurt perhaps more than they expected. Stuck in seventh, although only six points off the summit, Ahli should look to strengthen next month.

Fujairah choose wisely

It has not been the happiest of returns to the top flight for Fujairah. The east coast club, back in the league for the first time in seven years, have struggled to adapt, and they sit only one spot above the relegation zone.

Their foreign imports – in particular Boubacar Sanogo and Hassan Yebda – have failed to spark, leaving Fujairah with two victories from 11 matches. Last month’s 7-0 thumping by Baniyas represented the nadir.

That Fujairah responded with a win at Sharjah only prolonged the inevitable, for Tuesday’s 3-0 defeat to Al Shabab signalled the end for coach Abdulwahab Abdulqadir. The Iraqi was dismissed on Thursday and replaced by Ivan Hasek, the Czech manager who led Al Ahli to the 2009 league title.

It constitutes a risky decision – Abdulqadir is vastly experienced in UAE football – but at least Hasek understands the league. With Ajman and Emirates in two of their next three fixtures, Fujairah need a considerable jolt.

jmcauley@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter at @SprtNationalUAE

Published: December 12, 2014 04:00 AM

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