Al Ahli players want to win Arabian Gulf League title for Cosmin Olaroiu

Coach's six-month ban could act as a spur as Arabian Gulf League leaders look to win the championship for the first time since 2009.

Cosmin Olaroiu faces the possibility of being banned from the dugout for the rest of the season. Lee Hoagland / The National
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DUBAI // Al Ahli’s players are using Cosmin Olaroiu’s suspension as motivation to deliver the club a first UAE title in five years.

The Dubai side extended their lead at the top of the Arabian Gulf League to four points on Friday night when they defeated second-place Al Shabab 2-0 at the Rashid Stadium.

Olaroiu watched the derby from the stands, having last week been banned for six months from taking his place on the Ahli bench. The Romanian insisted he will contest the suspension, handed down by the Football Association as a sanction for his summer departure from Al Ain, the reigning champions.

The Garden City club claim Olaroiu, the architect of their past two league titles, had already signed a contract extension before deciding to join Ahli. Should the appeal prove unsuccessful, Olaroiu will not be permitted to man the dugout for the remainder of the 2013/14 season.

Regardless, his team have resolved to let the distraction off the pitch act as a spur on it.

“Our management is capable of changing any pressure on us into a positive and a motivation for us,” said Majed Hassan, the Ahli midfielder. “The coach spoke with us about everything before the [Shabab] match, and during the game he wasn’t too far and I could hear him and see him.

“So it’s not a huge difference, but of course I prefer him to be down on the pitch with us.”

At various times during the Shabab match, Olaroiu could be heard barking instructions to the Ahli players from his position behind the dugout, despite a vociferous crowd of more than 12,000.

Ahli clearly responded, earning a crucial victory through an Edgar Bruno own goal and then Luis Jimenez’s second-half strike. The league’s early pacesetters could even have won by more had Grafite, their captain, converted a 28th-minute penalty. Instead, his effort struck the base of the post.

Grafite cut a content figure after the encounter, though, as he enthused about Ahli’s dogged performance following a stretch in which they had not recorded a league win in three rounds.

The Brazilian was particularly pleased with his side’s tenacity and commitment, especially given Olaroiu’s current predicament. He is confident Ahli could finally emulate their 2009 championship success.

“Not having Cosmin there is hard, because sometimes during the game, you are faced with a difficult time or a difficult situation, and you look to the bench and you don’t have your commander there, your coach,” Grafite said.

“But that’s football. Some things happen in football and now he has the suspension and you need to adapt to make a new system. But even though he wasn’t in the bench, he was in the tribune, and I could feel that he plays with us and that he helps us.

“The most important thing is to play well inside the field.”