Walid Abbas hails resurgence of Al Ahli star Ciel

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Ciel (c) has been superb since returning from injury.

Ciel, 34, has been brought back into the Red Knights fold since lethal striker Lima’s loss to knee surgery in January.

This ended a 16-month stint on the sidelines after a horrific double ankle fracture against Sharjah on the opening day of the 2014/15 Arabian Gulf League season.

The Brazilian forward moved on to nine goals in 16 appearances with a brace during Friday’s President’s Cup quarter-final win against Al Shaab and Abbas – who also played alongside him at Al Shabab – believes his incredible impact is a lesson to all.

The UAE defender, 30, said: “Ciel is a good player and we need him, especially in these kind of games. When you play against a team like Shaab who stay close and are compact, he can make the difference.

“We are happy that he is back. He is a good player and a good example for all the professional and foreign players in the UAE.

“He got a hard injury and now he is back. He is helping the team a lot.”

Ciel's return since January

  • AGL
  • Mins: 938, Starts: 10, Sub: 4, Goals: 6
  • President's Cup
  • Mins: 210, Starts: 2, Sub: 0, Goals: 3

A first top flight and cup double in 31 years appears on for Cosmin Olaroiu’s unstoppable side after they overcame Al Shaab with a 3-1 triumph at Sharjah Stadium.

Fallen giants Al Jazira are up next at Al Ain’s Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium, with a spot in May 29’s showpiece up for grabs.

The UAE’s premier cup competition has tormented the Romanian coach since he arrived in Dubai three years ago, losing 1-0 in the 2014 final to former club Al Ain and on penalties to Al Nasr in last year’s showpiece.

Abbas was phlegmatic about his club’s chances in the current edition.

He said: “It is just one game, you can win or lose. Al Ahli lost two finals and we are looking forward to hopefully making the next final.

“We have a good team and hopefully we can do it, Inshallah.”

Friday’s last-eight tie didn’t run true to form. Relegated Shaab looked set for extra time with the score 1-1 until Moussa Sow’s header and Ciel’s controversial injury-time goal sealed Ahli’s passage.

“It was a difficult game,” Abbas said. “We tried to score, but then we received a goal. This made the game more difficult.

“Cup games are always different to the league. We are happy we won this game and we are looking forward to our next game, Inshallah.”

The other semi-final sees mid-table Bani Yas face AGL runners-up Al Ain. The game will be played at Al Jazira’s Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium on Saturday.

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#360view: Wahda leading the way for football in Abu Dhabi

Matt Jones 16/05/2016
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Al Wahda.

What a difference a year makes in UAE football, especially in the capital city which is on the brink of a power shift between giants Al Jazira and a team that are definitely no longer just pretenders to their throne, Al Wahda.

Twelve months ago, the Pride of Abu Dhabi battled Al Ain for the Arabian Gulf League title, Eric Gerets’ men running out of steam down the home straight as the Garden City side eventually won by nine points.

The gap was misleading and Jazira’s efforts were reflected in scooping an individual double, with Ali Mabkhout named Emirati Player of the Year and the mercurial Mirko Vucinic Foreign Player of the Year at the AGL Awards.

This year, it was Abu Dhabi rivals Wahda collecting a brace, with Sebastian Tagliabue named Best Foreign Player and Mohamed Al Akbari, 20, named U21 Player of the Year as the Clarets finished third.

At Jazira, Gerets was ushered out, signalling the return of Brazilian, Abel Braga. He was supposed to deliver a first AGL title in five years – yet he was gone after just 16 miserable games.

Languishing in 12th place, Henk ten Cate delivered stability as Jazira recovered to finish seventh, but a woeful AFC Champions League campaign means he is likely to be jettisoned in the summer.

Four kilometres down the road, meanwhile, Wahda, under astute and affable Javier Aguirre, are plotting a revolt against the established Abu Dhabi footballing royalty.

Having finished second two seasons ago, 2014/15 was blighted by Jose Peseiro’s bizarre sacking and the Clarets sinking to fourth under Sami Al Jaber. Aguirre’s arrival last summer brought stability and much more, the Clarets celebrating becoming Arabian Gulf Cup champions as well as a berth in the Champions League playoffs.

Their success has been underpinned by lethal Argentine Tagliabue, who topped the AGL charts with 25 strikes in 26 games.

The Latin American cocktail is completed by the genius of Chile playmaker Jorge Valdivia and Brazilian midfielder Denilson adding steel – all of which is woven together by the vast experience of Mexican Aguirre.

Though they do not have the finances to compete with Al Ahli, Al Ain and Jazira, Wahda can push on from this and compete for the AGL title next season.

Achieve that and they will also be crowned the new kings of the capital.

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Aguirre tells Wahda squad to aim for AGL title

Matt Jones 16/05/2016
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Cup winners: Wahda.

Javier Aguirre used his final press conference of the season to set his Al Wahda players an ambitious target for next season – become Arabian Gulf League champions.

The Mexican steered his side to third place in his maiden campaign in the Emirates and into the AFC Champions League playoffs. In a season of firsts at Al Nahyan Stadium, the Clarets also lifted their first Arabian Gulf Cup.

Aguirre said the four-time UAE champions, who last celebrated lifting an AGL title in 2010, have a tall task to topple champions Al Ahli, who finished 23 points ahead of them, but insists his side have no excuses not to improve next season.

“Next season we will fight for the title,” said the 57-year-old with cautious optimism on Sunday. “We haven’t talked about the goals but we will be fighting in four tournaments. We have to do this.”

The former Atletico Madrid manager admits that while the club might not be able to compete financially with superpowers Ahli, Al Ain and Al Jazira, he believes he has a good mix of youth and experience in his squad.

“(Jorge) Valdivia has a contract (for two years), all the young players renew, Hamdan (Al Kamali) extended his contract, goalkeeper (Adel Al Hosani) too so we have no excuses not to be better,” he said.

“I don’t know if that big, big gap can be closed but I’m really confident for next year. Today, 23 points is a big gap to Al Ahli. They and Al Ain are much better than us, but we have to close that gap.

“We don’t have money to invest in two or three big names. We can’t compete with Al Ahli, who paid more than Dh100 million on players, and we don’t like to spend money like this because we have a really good academy and can use our young players next year.”

Though Wahda may lack financial muscle against these juggernauts, Aguirre has earmarked several areas where his side can improve.

“Of course we have to be a better team. We have to get more points and everyone has to work better, including myself,” added Aguirre. “We suffered too many defeats (nine) in my opinion. We also have to not repeat the mistakes of the past, so not as many yellow cards, red cards. In the beginning of the season we left many points on the field, so the key is hard work from the beginning.”

Aguirre pointed to a 3-2 win against Emirates Club on November 27 as the key match of the campaign.

Trailing 2-0 with 13 minutes to go, Denilson, Mohamed Al Shehhi and a dramatic stoppage time Ismail Matar winner started a sequence of 10 wins in 18 games as they surged to third.

“From the Emirates game, our performances got better, that was the key for the season, because we were losing 2-0, but changed the result,” said Aguirre. “If we lost we might have been playing for 10th or ninth place. I think we deserved to finish third and we got the Arabian Gulf Cup too.”

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