Underwhelming striker Emmanuel Emenike could have played his last game for Al Ain after the Arabian Gulf League champions began to seriously ponder prematurely ending his season-long loan deal.
Emenike, 28, was unable to find the back of the net when he played all 90 minutes during the Boss’ late 2-1 win at Al Dhafra on Friday. This was his 14th appearance in all competitions since he joined from Fenerbahce in July, with seven goals being struck during this period.
The Boss now have a two-week break until their next fixture at home to Al Wasl on January 23. They intend to use this time to review the recently-retired Nigeria international’s failure to impress both on and off the pitch, as well as consider possible replacements.
Conversely, reports in Turkey have stated Fener are interested in recalling Emenike as they look to add goals to their squad after Robin van Persie and Fernandao only struck six goals each in a Super Lig campaign in which the club sits second.
Al Ain could be minded to find a compromise to end a temporary arrangement which cost them a €3 million fee (Dh12m) and a potential €2.5m (Dh10m) in wages.
The Boss have not budgeted to spend great sums during this transfer window. They only spent €2.5m to land Friday night’s match-winning winger Danillo Asprilla and would be looking at a similar amount for a new centre forward, unless something extraordinary appears.
Al Ahli star Ciel has revealed he is fired up to return to his vintage best, beginning with Saturday night’s trip to Fujairah in the Arabian Gulf League.
Ciel, 33, has been drafted back into the title chasers’ four-player foreign quota after 19-goal hit man Lima underwent knee surgery this week.
The ex-Al Shabab forward has suffered an injury nightmare of his own, his appearance as a late substitute in Monday’s goalless draw at Al Wasl ending 15 months of inactivity after a double ankle fracture.
“The game against Fujairah will be a tough one certainly, and we will work to implement the ideas of our coach to get the three points,” Ciel said.
“The importance of returning to my former level is a great motivation to do more to help my colleagues and achieve positive results for the team.”
Red Knights boss Cosmin Olaroiu is still seething after the stalemate at Zabeel Stadium which saw his second-placed side drop vital points to leaders Al Ain.
The Romanian was sent to the stands on 66 minutes when his anger at perceived mistakes from the officials boiled over and he bemoaned “injustice” once again before the trip east.
He said: “I have nothing to say about the Fujairah match. Regardless of the things that I plan for the team, things will be different. “It is the injustice in this period, and football is witnessing it clearly in this region.”
Meanwhile, Bani Yas boss Luis Garcia has urged his troops not to put the brakes on their recent push up the table against bottom-placed Al Shaab.
The Sky Blues recently beat Ahli and drew with Al Wahda to end a four-match losing streak in the top flight.
“Al Shaab’s current position doesn’t mean this is a weak team, especially after the latest changes and assignment of Mr Walter Zenga to lead the team,” said the Spaniard.
“Our positive results against Al Ahli and Al Wahda mean nothing if we don’t win this match. Therefore, we need the full support from the management, loyal Bani Yas fans and every team member.”
Al Jazira’s latest reboot elicited an immediate upturn as they held on to claim a 2-2 draw at Al Wasl.
Friday night’s game featured several firsts for the Arabian Gulf League’s most volatile club as new boss Henk ten Cate made his debut in the dugout, with the Dutchman handing immediate starts to newly-signed striker Kenwyne Jones and attacking midfielder Angel Lafita.
The six-place gap in the table between the clubs was reflected in much of the running – yet the Pride of Abu Dhabi will care little as a nightmare season saw a rare bright spot.
“I think I must be happy,” said Ten Cate. “This team can only play better and given time, believe me, we will. We took a point from a difficult away game against the fourth-placed team in the league.
“It could have been much better, but for the time being it is a good result. We gave away the goals quite easily, but on the other hand I saw some good stuff. Of course, we want to win the first game, but I knew it would be difficult against a good team with good players. But we did a good job.”
This was a frustrating night for Wasl, who were superior from the moment they overcame their early nerves. Coach Gabriel Calderon bemoaned the lost points.
He said: “We played a very good match, but I think we lost twopoints. However, we came back from losing situations twice, which showed we’re a great team.
“We controlled the match for 90 minutes, although unfortunately we couldn’t score again. We have a strong mentality for moving forward in the season.”
Brazil attacking midfielder Thiago Neves’ 21st-minute opener for the visitors came courtesy of a telling deflection from a free-kick, while youngster Sultan Al Shamsi’s fine effort to make it 2-1 required both smart feet and fortune as the hosts failed to clear a route-one ball.
In Hugo Viana, Wasl possessed by a distance the game’s supreme performer. In goalscorers Abdulla Kazim and Fabio De Lima, they also boast young talent of rich promise. They remain in the all-important fourth and final Asian qualification spot, their seven-point cushion to a potentially-resurgent Jazira key.
— Matt Monaghan (@mattmonaghan360) January 8, 2016
Ten Cate’s troops started with a freedom and purpose absent during Abel Braga’s miserable return. The decision to jettison the Brazilian who won everything domestically with them from 2008-11 in favour of the former Barcelona and Chelsea assistant seems wise on the early evidence.
Cardiff City loanee Jones forced a fine, low save from Wasl goalkeeper Rashid Ali on 11 minutes before Lafita – a buy this week from La Liga’s Getafe – repeated the scenario moments later.
Jazira were cranking up the pressure on high-flying opponents and a stroke of luck soon put them ahead. Clumsy centre-back Hassan Zahran first committed a needless foul, before his endless limbs deflected in Neves’ 30-yard dead ball.
The goal woke Wasl from their slumber and with momentum on their side they levelled on 58 minutes, as UAE Under-23 international Kazim came off the bench to nod in on the goal line after Caio Canedo met Viana’s corner.
There seemed only one winner from this point, but Jazira went ahead from nowhere on 67 minutes. A smash up the pitch saw Jones’ physical presence force a poor defensive header. UAE forward Ali Mabkhout in a new attacking-midfield role then instantly lobbed forward for Al Shamsi to convert from a tight angle after rounding Ali.
Ten Cate and his technical staff charged forward in joy, though this was to be short lived. Wasl would rightly have felt robbed if De Lima had not leaped superbly on 78 minutes to head home his ninth 2015- 16 AGL goal from Viana’s corner, as the superb centre midfielder claimed a seventh assist.