Al Ahli coach Olaroiu’s services in high demand despite struggles

Baniyas look much steadier under Luis Garcia while leaders Al Wahda lean on Al Hosani, writes Ahmed Rizvi
Al Ahli coach Cosmin Olaroiu, centre, during an Arabian Gulf League match at Rashid Stadium in Dubai on September 29, 2014. Sarah Dea / The National
Al Ahli coach Cosmin Olaroiu, centre, during an Arabian Gulf League match at Rashid Stadium in Dubai on September 29, 2014. Sarah Dea / The National

All eyes on Olaroiu

With three league titles in a row in the UAE, Cosmin Olaroiu is a coach in demand and Al Ahli’s stuttering defence of their Arabian Gulf League title has led to speculations about his future at the club.

Last year, clubs in Saudi Arabia and Romania reportedly expressed their interest, and earlier this year he was also being cited as a frontrunner to replace Victor Piturca as coach of the Romanian national team.

Olaroiu has turned down every approach, saying he wants to continue at the Rashid Stadium, but with Ahli struggling to meet expectations this season, another offer has surfaced – to lead the Saudi Arabian national team at the Asian Cup in Australia next month.

According to reports in the Romanian press, the Saudi football federation is looking to replace Spain’s Juan Ramon Lopez Caro after his failure to win the Gulf Cup at home last month and have offered Olaroiu US$5 million (Dh18.36m) a year to take charge of the team.

All eyes will be on Olaroiu, as he leads his defending UAE champions for what should be a difficult game on Friday at Al Nasr. Another defeat could set the wheels of his departure into motion.

Baniyas on the move

Not so long ago, the media was speculating about the future of Baniyas coach Luis Garcia as well. With three draws and two defeats in his first five league matches, the Spaniard seemed headed for the exit door.

However, things have changed since. Baniyas have won four matches in succession and were merciless in their 7-0 win at Fujairah in their last game. The addition of Argentine striker Denis Stracqualursi has certainly helped the squad, but the biggest difference has been the form of UAE national team star Amer Abdulrahman, and Garcia singled the midfielder out for praise after the Fujairah rout.

Their next match, however, will be a tougher test. Baniyas are hosting Al Jazira on Friday in what should be an exciting Abu Dhabi derby, and Garcia’s men have an opportunity to announce themselves as possible title contenders.

Al Hosani back on song

After their battling draw at Jazira, Al Wahda will entertain Al Dhafra at home on Thursday, hoping to stay ahead of the chasing pack with three points. As usual, goalkeeper Adel Al Hosani’s performance will be key. He was outstanding in the last game, making three excellent saves to help Wahda return home with a point.

The Emirati, 25, seems to be getting back to the levels he showed during his debut season in 2009/10, when Wahda clinched the league title. His performances this season are admirable considering that the team have been struggling to put together a regular defensive quartet. They sold Essa Ahmed to Ahli before the close of the transfer window, and Hamdan Al Kamali has missed several matches through injury.

Al Kamali is out of the next game as well, with three yellow cards, while the hosts will be missing Mohammed Al Shehhi through injury. Wahda have suffered from the absence of key players earlier in the campaign, but have marched on undaunted.

Henrique will be missed

Playing for one of the lesser clubs of the league, Luiz Henrique usually does not get the kind of praise he deserves. But as his performance against Ahli on Sunday showed, the 33-year-old Brazilian is one of the best in the league.

A nominee for best foreign player last season, Henrique is an electrifying presence in the Emirates midfield, creative and creating space at will as he runs wide, leaving defenders breathless with his bursts of speed.

Henrique, however, will not be on the pitch when Emirates host Al Wasl on Friday evening after collecting three yellow cards. Looking at his imprint on the team’s performances this season, his services will be greatly missed.

Strugglers feel pressure

After their embarrassing defeats in the last round, Ajman coach Fathi Al Jabal and Fujairah’s Abdulwahab Abdulqadir will be under pressure to turn things around.

Fujairah are visiting Sharjah, who drubbed Ajman 4-0, while Ajman travel to third-placed Al Shabab.

The Fujairah and Ajman management gave a vote of confidence to their coaches after the defeat in the last round, but more reversals in the coming weeks could further test their patience.

Also, there could be a slew of changes in the squads of the two clubs during the January transfer window, with Boubacar Sanogo, Hassan Yebda (both Fujairah) and Driss Fettouhi (Ajman) looking particularly vulnerable, unless they lift their performances in the remaining four rounds before the break for the Asian Cup.

arizvi@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter at @SprtNationalUAE

Published: December 3, 2014 04:00 AM

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