Fawzi insists Al Ain remain confident of AFCCL progress despite slump

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Fawzi (l) says Al Ain's belief remains.

The Boss conceded two goals in two frantic minutes at the death on Sunday against Bani Yas to force a shock extra-time period, in which they belatedly prevailed through midfielder Lee Myung-joo’s composed winner.

Another stern test now awaits on Wednesday in Iran, a 1-1 home draw to Zob Ahan putting them on the back foot for the fight to reach the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League.

Despite an unconvincing route to Sunday’s domestic showpiece against Al Jazira, right-back Fawzi insists self-assurance will not be a problem in midweek.

The 26-year-old said: “We have confidence, we are Al Ain. Inshallah, we will be what our supporters want.

“We feel good. We are always happy. Even when we lost the Arabian Gulf League title we were still happy, because all the team is in one house. That is most important.”

The rickety 2014 winners’ unconvincing progression to the decider at Zayed Sports City was in stark contrast to their opponents. A predatory hat-trick from 29-goal marksman Ali Makbhout saw the Pride of Abu Dhabi secure a merited 3-2 win against AGL champions Al Ahli.

Fallen giants Jazira have improved markedly since Henk ten Cate arrived in December, following the abysmal return of Abel Braga. They have won four of their last five games in all competitions, which is a contrast to Al Ain’s faltering run of four triumphs in the last 11.

“Jazira is a good team, in good shape,” said UAE international Fawzi. “But every year Al Ain play for the cup, compete to the end in the Arabian Gulf League and AFC Champions League.

“We have the best player in the UAE [playmaker Omar Abdulrahman] and we are happy. Inshallah, we will be champions on May 29 and go to the next round of the AFC Champions League.”

Elsewhere, Al Wahda’s UAE international defender Hamdan Al Kamali has committed his long-term future to the Clarets after signing a new five-year contract that will keep him at the Al Nahyan Stadium until 2021.

The 27-year-old, who played 26 games and scored once in all competitions for the Abu Dhabi outfit this season, has spent the entirety of his ten year career at Wahda. He was loaned to Ligue 1 giants Lyon in 2011/12 but failed to make an impact in France’s top flight.

“Hamdan Al Kamali is one of the club’s loyal sons and one of the main pillars the team relies on,” said a club statement.

“He is characterised by consistent outstanding performances and is one of the important elements of the UAE national team. He has been awarded with a lucrative contract based upon his status as being the best defender in the country.”

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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 - Editor 10:38 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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