Al Ahli hit Fujairah for eight goals to open Arabian Gulf League season in style

Ismail Al Hammadi, who had bragged Ahli could make a cleansweep of the domestic titles this season, struck a hat-trick during the 8-1 rout while newcomer Rodrigo Lima and Everton Ribeiro scored two apiece, reports Ahmed Rizvi.

Al Ahli celebrate scoring one of their eight goals against Fujairah during the league opener in Dubai on Wednesday night. Hasan Alraesi / Al Ittihad
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Dubai // Al Ahli sent out a warning to their rivals with a 8-1 demolition of Fujairah at the Rashid Stadium on the opening night of the Arabian Gulf League.

Ismail Al Hammadi, who had said Ahli could make a clea sweep of the domestic titles this season at the club’s kit launch on Sunday, struck a hat-trick on the night, while newcomer Rodrigo Lima and Everton Ribeiro scored two each.

Ahmed Khalil also got on the scoresheet for the hosts, while Hassan Maatouk managed to score a consolation goal for Fujairah in added time.

The win should be a massive boost for Ahli ahead of their visit to Iran for the first leg of their Asian Champions League quarter-final against Naft Tehran on August 26.

Fujairah, of course, were nowhere close to the quality that the 2013/14 AGL champions will face at the cavernous Azadi Stadium next Wednesday, but the way they controlled the game was truly impressive.

Man of the match

Brazilian striker Rodrigo Lima was probably not at the top of Ahli’s shopping list in the summer, with the likes of Mario Balotelli, Luiz Adriano and Bafetimbi Gomis featuring higher up. But, like coach Cosmin Olaroiu said earlier in the month, Lima is proving to be a better signing than those superstars. Last night, he scored twice and had a role in two of the goals scored by Ismail Al Hammadi.

What the managers said

“It is good start for us, but the most important thing is to understand this result is worth just three points and we have not achieved anything,” Al Ahli coach Cosmin Olaroiu said. “We should not start pretending we are better than we actually are.”

“I am really disappointed with what happened,” Fujairah coach Ivan Hasek said. “The team just collapsed after the second goal and did not play the way we should have played. This is the first time we have conceded so many goals and I apologise to the fans and to everyone who is supporting the team for this performance.”

The National’s verdict

Having played the likes of Inter Milan, and shared the honours with them, during their pre-season camp in Italy, Ahli looked confident from the start. They controlled the game despite the stifling humidity, wasted few opportunities in front of the goal and made the most of Fujairah’s clumsy defending.

It was a convincing performance, but perhaps the hosts would have preferred a stiffer workout ahead of their Champions League quarter-final against Naft Tehran next week. Olaroiu, however, should have few complaints from this performance. Ahli looked like a well-drilled unit, and if they can keep their play up at this level, UAE football fans could be a celebrating a win next Wednesday.

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