AFCCL finalists Al Ahli are equally keen on winning AGL title

Matt Jones - Editor 08:15 27/10/2015
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Forging ahead: Al Ahli.

Despite less than two weeks to go until a historic first appearance in the AFC Champions League final, Al Ahli’s players insist their focus is on the next two Arabian Gulf League matches.

The Red Knights reached the Champions League final last Tuesday after a dramatic stoppage time goal from South Korean defender Kwon Kyung-won gave them a 3-2 second leg victory against Al Hilal to send Cosmin Olaroiu’s side through 4-3 on aggregate.

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The first leg of the final against Guangzhou Evergrande will be played in Dubai on November 7.

Ahli’s players had five days’ rest between their Champions League semi-final and Sunday’s AGL match at Al Wahda, but they came through a testing fixture with flying colours, with a commanding 3-1 win at Al Nahyan Stadium.

They have two more league fixtures before the Champions League first leg, at home against Dibba Al Fujairah next Saturday and away at Emirates Club two days later.

Defender Nawaf Mubarak and goalkeeper Majed Nasser are both refusing to look too far beyond those two fixtures.

“We don’t think about the final, we focus on the league games and then we will focus on the final and prepare ourselves to play,” said Mubarak, capped 21 times by the UAE.

“We also think about the league. We want to win the league and we focus on this. Our coach is concentrating on this.

“We are focused to play each game separately. We scored three goals (against Wahda) and we controlled the game. Inshallah, we can continue this for this season.

“Always our level has to be the same or increasing. We cannot go back. We want to be at the top of the league so we have to keep moving.”

Domestic champions two seasons ago, and into their first continental club competition final, Mubarak knows there will now be an even bigger target on Ahli’s backs.

“Everybody thinks Al Ahli is a big team, because we reached the final, and everybody wants to beat us, so it’s not easy,” said the 34-year-old.

“Reaching the final has put a bigger target on our back, but it gives us more confidence to play when we reach this level and we have to show everyone it’s not by luck.”

Ahli and UAE stopper Nasser believes it would have been easy for the Red Knights to have stumbled against Wahda after Tuesday’s euphoria, but he said the AGL title is equally important for them.

“We cannot stop. That is very important,” said the 31-year-old.

“We must fight every game. We have a difficult game every game. We try to take more from each game but we must concentrate at each game, at each training session for the rest of the season.”

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