The identity of Al Ahli’s opening goalscorer was inevitable, with the swift timing no surprise.
Asamoah Gyan required just four minutes yesterday to slot home his 96th goal in the Arabian Gulf League, as the Red Knights kicked off their title defence with a 4-0 triumph against Emirates Club which required a late flourish to gain gloss.
The loanee’s confident penalty – which he won himself thanks to veteran Haidar Alo Ali’s slackness – saw normal service resumed in a competition he dominated from 2011-15 with Al Ain.
The Ghana skipper was not at his hustling best after a mixed year with Shanghai SIPG, which featured few strikes and many injuries.
Taken off before the hour mark, a gentle word of encouragement from long-term mentor Cosmin Olaroiu showed that the present task is gently restoring the UAE’s predator supreme to his lethal best after a prolonged period of inactivity.
Tangible improvement will need to be registered if the striker is to edge out fellow scorer Ahmed Khalil once again for Thursday’s tough engagement across Dubai at Al Nasr. He was benched in midweek for the 2-1 victory against Al Jazira in the Arabian Gulf Super Cup.
“He progresses and increases his condition,” the Romanian supremo said of his superstar recruit. “He played almost 60 minutes and it is not bad after 10 days. He is around 50-60 per cent, for sure in future he will get his level.
“I like to have such problems (choosing between Khalil and Gyan). Problems which are good to choose.”
Olaroiu had spent an interlude during a first half played in second gear practicing his basketball skills on the touchline. It was that sort of match, played in a sauna at Rashid Stadium.
For visitors pegged for a season-long battle against the drop, there were signs of encouragement despite the eventual one-sided scoreline. Coach Theo Bucker instills resolve wherever he goes, this approach saw him work miracles at Dibba Al Fujairah last term.
The German veteran’s 5-4-1 formation remained compact until the final stages, as early fears about a repeat of Ahli’s 8-1 mauling of Fujairah on 2015/16’s opening day soon dissipated. Bucker’s only regret was an inability to take advantage of tired opponents.
He said: “There was a chance for us, because Al Ahli’s level might have been down because of the Super Cup. But it didn’t happen, because Ahli as a group had too much experience and professionalism. Your players can be paralysed against the big names from a big team.”
Youngsters such as Saeed Ahmed and Waled Hussain were given rare starts by the Red Knights, as Olaroiu continues to ease his seven-strong UAE contingent back to match speed after their summer sojourn with the national team.
Such a call didn’t seem set to effect things – in front of watching Netherlands legend Edgar Davids, who is to spent the next three months with Ahli as he works towards his Pro Licence – when Gyan robbed daydreaming 36-year-old defender Alo Ali and was promptly felled.
He had struck on debut against ex-employers Al Ain in the Arabian Gulf Cup and the trick was repeated from 12 yards.
Excellent Brazil playmaker Everton Ribeiro then probed without reward, with the sight of Falcons striker Sebastian Saez heading a glorious chance wide providing the catalyst for a punishing last 20 minutes.
Diminutive Whites winger Ismail Al Hammadi outjumped giant Australian defender Zac Anderson to nod in the second, before fellow substitute Khalil rose to the fore.
A trademark free-kick, last witnessed in his nation’s incredible victory in Japan a fortnight ago, was lashed in from 25 yards via Anderson’s forehead, prior to him racing clear on 90 minutes to slot under the exposed Ali Saqr.
Know more about Sport360 Application