Belhoul returns to Al Wasl hoping to usher in era of stability

Kenny Laurie 13/01/2014
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On his way out: Al Wasl midfielder Mariano Donda (r) is likely to leave the club.

Al Wasl welcomed back former chairman Rashid Belhoul to the club on Sunday with the hope of bringing stability to the club.

The Cheetahs take on Al Ain in the President’s Cup quarter-finals today in Abu Dhabi and will no doubt be buoyed by the swift arrival of the man who was in charge the last time the club enjoyed a league triumph.

While the new chairman has been revealed, the new board members will be announced later in the week.

The traumas of 2013 carried over into the New Year on Friday when Abdulla Hareb and his board resigned en masse, stating they had failed to take the club to the heights expected.

Ex-chairman Hareb was in the position for little under a year and oversaw another period of upheaval and underachievement. Four managers – Guy Lacombe, Eid Baroot, Laurent Banide and Hector Cuper – walked through the door in 2013.

“We are pleased to announce Belhoul’s return to the club,” an Al Wasl spokesman said. “We had a lot of success the last time he was here between 2002 and 2008. Although the new chairman has been announced, the club won’t know the new board until at least after the Al Ain game."

While all is seemingly on the mend at the board level, the club is still in trouble on the pitch.

Star player Mariano Donda and new defender Milan Susak could be on their way out of the club while new signing Juan Emmanuel Culio, formerly of Deportivo La Coruna, will be unable to make his debut today due to some issues with his registration forms.

Fellow new signing Hassan Zahran, who left Al Dhafra this week on a three-and-a-half year deal, is expected to make his bow.

Al Wasl face a tough task today in Al Ain, who are managed by last year’s winner Quique Sanchez Flores, who enjoyed success with previous club Al Ahli. The Cheetahs are in a difficult run of form of late.

Since their 2-1 win over Al Ahli, that broke the latter’s unbeaten start to the season, back in mid-December, Al Wasl have failed to win a single game.

PRESIDENT'S CUP FIXTURES

Today

17:00 Al Thaid v Al Nasr at Sharjah

17: 05 Al Dhafra v Shabab at Bani Yas

20:05 Al Ain v Al Wasl at Abu Dhabi

20:05 Al Wahda v Al Ahli at Al Ain

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Show your support as the President’s Cup battle hots up

Kenny Laurie 12/01/2014
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Coveted title: Al Ahli with the winners’ trophy last year after they beat Al Shabab.

The biggest cup competition in the UAE is beginning to hot up. The President’s Cup returns on Monday where eight teams will battle it out in the quarter-finals for a place in the last four and a shot at some much cherished silverware.

It’s a great chance for football fans in the UAE to soak in some high-quality action in the prestigious tournament.

Like any good cup competition, there are plenty of teams playing to inspire. The big teams are there, the pretenders are confident and as always there is the minnow looking to cause a few upsets.

The one team with a target on their backs are the holders Al Ahli. The Red Knights won the title last May in one of the most entertaining games on Emirati soil in years, beating Al Shabab 4-2 in a game that had everything; a perfect advert for football in the UAE.

So much is still at stake for the boys from the Rashid Stadium. Chasing the title in the league they may be, but Al Ahli are taking this tournament as seriously as they take any other.

More than that, a second straight win would make the club the most successful in the competition’s history – it would be their ninth title, putting them one ahead of Sharjah who have won the title eight times.

The battle is on: Al Ahli (l) will play Al Wahda in their quarter-final on Monday.

It has been a tough year for Al Ahli who have been involved in legal disputes with FIFA while their coach Cosmin Olaroiu is currently serving a six-month ban and last week saw the club stripped of three points for fielding a suspended player. A nice run in this competition will only lift their spirits.

Standing in their way will be Al Wahda with the game being played at Al Ain’s Tahnoon Bin Mohammad Stadium. Headed by star South Americans Sebastien Tagliabue and Damien Diaz, Al Wahda are a dangerous team that will be desperate for some cup action with their league position not as high as they’d hoped.

They have already overcome significant foes to get to this position after defeating the much-fancied Al Jazira in the previous round, winning 1-0 in Al Ain.

With Al Jazira out, their stadium will be used to house Al Ain against Al Wasl. Two of the biggest clubs in Emirati football history, both clubs have endured difficult seasons.

Al Wasl have already let go their manager Laurent Banide and there are continuing problems at boardroom level despite a new one coming in only last year.

Al Ain have had similar problems after they sacked manager Jorge Fossati on the eve of the new season and suffered early in the league as a consequence.

Key man: Omar Abdulrahman will hope to lead Al Ain into the semi-finals.

Manager Quique Sanchez Flores was the man who led Al Ahli to the President’s Cup title last year and he will be hoping for the same achievement this year.

Al Ain look too far back in the Arabian Gulf League title race to catch Al Ahli and will be looking at the President’s Cup to remedy their season.

Elsewhere, Al Dhafra take on Al Shabab looking to build on their last-minute win in the previous round against Bani Yas – whose stadium will host the game.

The surprise package of the competition so far is second division Al Thaid who beat Arabian Gulf League strugglers Al Shaab in the previous round and will be looking to keep their dream run alive when they play a strong Al Nasr side in Sharjah.

What: President’s Cup quarterfinals

When: Tomorrow, January 13

Where: Venues across UAE

Information: Log on to www.uaefa.ae

MONDAY'S TIES

► 17:00 Al Thaid v Al Nasr in Sharjah 

► 17: 05 Dhafra v Shabab in Bani Yas 

► 20:05 Al Ain v Al Wasl in Abu Dhabi 

► 20:05 Al Wahda v Al Ahli in Al Ain

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AGL round-up: Under-fire Valdez fires timely brace for Al Jazira

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Powerful display: Nelson Valdez was a constant menace to the Al Shaab defence

In a week where his future at the club had been called into doubt, Al Jazira striker Nelson Valdez gave the perfect response with a brace in their 3-0 win over Al Shaab.

Valdez has made a poor start in Abu Dhabi and the talk this week suggested the club were considering letting him go. But the Paraguayan international served up a timely reminder of his talents to coach Walter Zenga.

It took him just six minutes to break deadlock as he ran on to Ali Mabkhout’s header to fire home. And just four minutes later he added a second, again assisted by Mabkhout, who put the game to bed with a goal of his own just after the hour.

The UAE striker, who was in his first game back from a minor injury, latched onto a perfect through ball from Sultan Bargash to finish.

Elsewhere at the bottom of the table, Al Dhafra picked three valuable points away from home against Emirates Club, winning 3-2.

Having already received three points from the FA thanks to Al Ahli’s indiscretion last Friday, Al Dhafra rounded off the perfect week.

Makhete Diop, as usual, was on target for the Abu Dhabi side, netting twice while Bander Mohammad netted the other.

Al Nasr missed their chance to get in amongst the big boys when they lost 2-0 at home to Al Wahda.

Damian Diaz netted twice for the Excellencies.

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