DUBAI // Cosmin Olaroiu says Al Ahli remain focused on this week’s Asian Champions League final clash, despite Al Hilal’s appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) arguing the UAE club fielded an eligible player in their semi-final second leg.
The Saudi Arabian side, defeated 4-3 on aggregate, have contested Oussama Assaidi’s participation in last month’s return fixture in Dubai, claiming the winger should not have been allowed to play.
Assaidi was introduced in the second half as Ahli eventually won 3-2, even though he has not been included in the club’s 2015/16 Arabian Gulf League squad. However, his registration for the Champions League is thought to still be valid.
Last week, the Asian Football Confederation rejected Hilal’s case and subsequent appeal, prompting them to take their objection to CAS. The European-based court of final appeal is scheduled to issue a decision by Tuesday, four days before Ahli host China’s Guangzhou Evergrande in the first leg of the final.
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Olaroiu was asked on Saturday if he was happy Ahli have done nothing wrong, to which he responded: “You think two commissions have a wrong judgment? I don’t think the supporters from Hilal deserve … sometimes, when you lose, you try to deflect attention, to change the pressure from the supporters.
“But football is played on the field, we won on the field, we’re in the final and we’re going to be in the final.”
The Guangzhou match represents the most significant in Ahli’s history. The Dubai side, who until this year had never before progressed beyond the Champions League group stages, are the first UAE representative to contest the final in 10 years. Al Ain, the 2003 champions, were runners-up in 2005.
Ahli warmed up for the first leg with a 2-1 Arabian Gulf League victory against Dibba Al Fujairah on Saturday night, courtesy of goals from Rodrigo Lima and Ahmed Khalil. It maintains the club’s 100 per cent start to the domestic league season.
Olaroiu, though, was unhappy his players did not win by a wider margin as they now shift attention to Guangzhou. This weekend, they were crowned Chinese champions for a fifth consecutive season.
“We are going to play in the final against a very strong team,” he said. “We need to play differently; we have to treat the game differently. I hope we make the right decisions for the game. In attack today, we created a lot of chances, but it will be difficult to create the same amount in the final. So we need to be ready for everything.”
Referring to the toll the Dibba match may have taken on his players, Olaroiu replied: “In the final of the Champions League, does anybody feel fatigue or feel they lack stamina? It’s the final. When you’re in a final, you give 200 per cent.”