Al Ahli coach Cosmin Olaroiu remains tight-lipped after scoreless draw with Baniyas

Having managed his Dubai-based side for the final time before departing for Asia’s continental showpiece, Olaroiu elected not to address his Australian sojourn with the Saudi Arabia national team, reports Gary Meenaghan.
Al Ahli coach Cosmin Olaroiu, right, looks on as his team played Baniyas to a scoreless draw on Saturday night in Dubai. Antonie Robertson / The National
Al Ahli coach Cosmin Olaroiu, right, looks on as his team played Baniyas to a scoreless draw on Saturday night in Dubai. Antonie Robertson / The National

DUBAI // The large and looming figure of Cosmin Olaroiu in the Al Ahli dugout will temporarily vanish from the Rashid Stadium, but the rumours of a more permanent departure are likely to linger after the decorated Romanian coach refused to be drawn on the subject.

Olaroiu, since agreeing this week to lead the Saudi Arabia national team at next month’s Asian Cup, has seen his future at Ahli brought into question.

Podcast: Paul Oberjuerge and Paul Freelend discuss the drama surrounding Al Ahli and coach Cosmin Olaroiu

On Saturday night, having managed his Dubai-based side for the final time before departing for Asia’s continental showpiece, Olaroiu elected not to address his Australian sojourn.

When asked about his return, he maintained the party line.

“When I return, I hope we can push on,” he said.

Ahli were held to a dull stalemate at home to Baniyas, with the likes of Luis Jimenez and Carlos Munoz failing to provide the spark in midfield that had helped them win their previous two games.

Were it not for a smart save from the hosts’ impressive Ahmed Mahmoud in injury time, it could have been worse.

Read more: Sebastian Tagliabue notches double to lift Al Wahda

Jimenez started in the No 10 role for Ahli, but when he struggled to create anything of note, Olaroiu introduced Brazilian striker Grafite on the hour mark, dropping his playmaker deeper.

Ahli could still not find the breakthrough, though, leaving the club sixth in the league and eight points off the top.

“Luis is a good player and had two chances to score in the first half, but there are a lot of players – not only Luis – that have a lot more to give,” Olaroiu said.

“Now we will sit down and analyse the first half of the season because we are not where we should be.

“We will sit down together before I go and discuss how to fill in the gaps and avoid the mistakes.”

Baniyas defended resolutely, but Ahli rarely asked questions.

Early on, Salmeen Khamis powered a header straight at Mohsin Al Hashmi in the visitors’ goal, while Grafite struck an angled drive 10 minutes after coming on that was easily palmed round the post.

Other than that, Ahli looked devoid of ideas.

Baniyas, in contrast, looked organised and ready to pounce.

Twice in the space of as many minutes, sloppy passing from the home side allowed Haboush Saleh to break at speed.

“It was a good game and both sides looked hungry to win,” Olaroiu said.

“We played with spirit, but in the last third our decision making was not good enough.

“Baniyas are a very strong team, especially from free kicks, so the positive thing is we did not make any defensive mistakes.”

Al Ahli v Baniyas report card

Star performer Haboush Saleh (Baniyas) – The forward, above, chased down every loose ball and showed quick feet to cause Ahli problems in defence. Nearly snatched the goal he deserved when he narrowly failed to reach a delicious cross.

Underperformer Luis Jimenez (Ahli) – Not his worst match in a red shirt, but with his talents he should be dominating the game more and creating goalscoring chances. Showed good feet to find space, but final ball let him down time and again.

Key moment With three minutes of injury-time left, Yousef Jaber stood over a free-kick and both coaches held their breaths. The Emirati’s curling effort was on target and well-placed, but Ahmed Mahmoud did well to punch it clear.

Al Ahli rating 5/10 The hosts were sloppy in possession and failed to seriously test the Baniyas goalkeeper. Both creative midfielders were ineffective, while Ahmed Khalil struggled to get involved in play.

Baniyas rating 7/10 Despite coach Luis Garcia insisting otherwise, Baniyas were set up to defend and counter and the strategy almost worked. Defended well and had their chances.

Our verdict Dull and drab, these are the games the AGL want to eradicate. Ahli were a pale imitation of last season’s dominant champions, while Baniyas stuck to their defensive plan. The fact the highlight was when a hoofed clearance hit the overhead spider-cam says it all.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter @SprtNationalUAE

Published: December 20, 2014 04:00 AM

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