Abu Dhabi // Al Ahli’s bid to narrow the gap on Arabian Gulf League leaders Al Ain suffered a blow when they went down 1-0 at Baniyas.
Ishak Belfodil scored the only goal of the match two minutes before the break for Baniyas to win the three points and move up three places to seventh in the table.
A free-kick from Amer Abdulrahman was punched away by Ahli goalkeeper Majed Naser, but it fell into Ahmed Haboush’s path. His effort at the crowded goalmouth caromed off Walid Abbas, and Belfodil was at hand to smash it into the back of the net from point-blank range.
Ahli made a vain bid to push for the equaliser by bringing on the UAE international Ahmed Khalil, who created a few chances, yet Ahli could not get that all important goal.
Brazilian midfielder Everton Ribeiro wasted a clear chance in front goal, and his compatriot Rodrigo Lima was wide with another.
Khalil’s shot ricocheted off Haboush and the Baniyas keeper brought off an excellent save to deny Moussa Sow.
Man of the match — Mohammed Jaber, Baniyas
Solid in defence. He had the Ahli marksmen Lima, Moussa Sow, Ribeiro and later Khalil, closely marking them and coordinating with his defence to put up a compact wall throughout the game.
What they said:
Luis Garcia, the Baniyas coach: "The players were more focused after last week's defeat to Sharjah. The difference in the two games were, we played basketball against Sharjah and tonight we played football. "Tactically we played similar to the matches we played against Al Ain and Al Nasr. Obviously I'm happy with the result and now I can take a couple of days off to visit my parents for Christmas."
Cosmin Olaroiu, the Ahli coach: "We lost a battle but haven't lost the war. We will not give up on our title hopes. We have a few problems and hopefully fix it in the next period.
“Baniyas nailed us by using negative tactics. They didn’t allow us to play an open game but still we made four or five chances, but didn’t get the final touch. This is football.”
The National’s verdict
Since the Asian Champions League final, Al Ahli have not shown the true potential on their return to domestic duties.
Olaroiu’s side have dropped six points in the past three games, losing to Al Ain 3-0 and now Baniyas, and they cannot afford to lose more ground to Al Ain if they want to stay on the title path.
Kudos should be given to the Baniyas defence. They were rock solid as they bounced back from last week’s humiliating 3-0 defeat at Sharjah.
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