It’s hard to please UAE football fans, typified by Zoran Mamic being criticised for a perceived lack of vitality in Al Ain’s play this season despite ascending to the top of the Arabian Gulf League this week.
The Boss went top of the AGL for the first time this season following Saturday’s 2-0 away win at Emirates Club and, along with Al Wasl, are the only team who remain unbeaten in 2017/18.
Yet in his pre-match press conference ahead of welcoming Sharjah today, Mamic was asked about the media’s criticism of his team’s performances – despite scoring a joint-second 12 goals in five games.
“I respect the views of the media and the masses but it is not necessary to agree with them,” said the Croatian, whose team have been performing even without injured star Omar Abdulrahman, who has missed all but one of the Boss’ league games.
“We can talk for hours about the team’s performance and methods. Last season Al Ain performances were fun to watch but we lost important points against teams not competing for the title.
“But this season we have managed to reap points against rivals both near the top and bottom of the league.”
Mamic will again be without midfield maestro Abdulrahman at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium today, with UAE defenders Mohamed Ahmed and Ismail Ahmed and midfielders Mohamed Abdulrahman and Bandar Al Ahbabi also out, while Mamic is sweating on the availability of Japan defender Tsukasa Shiotani.
“I don’t need to look for any excuses or justifications about the team’s performance, I focus only on achieving victories,” added Mamic.
“A performance without the result does not mean anything. We all wish to win by more than five goals in all our games, but we have to deal realistically with the desires and wishes of everyone.”
Ajman coach Ayman Al Ramady, meanwhile, has denied that the Orange Brigade’s meeting with Emirates today is a “six pointer” as both teams battle for points in what is deemed a clash of two relegation candidates.
Ajman gained their first win in the previous round with a 1-0 win at Al Nasr, but Egyptian Al Ramady admitted the player has been in good spirits this week.
the players in good spirits not only previous win victory, but because the team under the lead in all the matches convincingly and spirit more than good.
“I remained optimistic before every game, despite the results that preceded the victory over Al Nasr,” he said.
“There was no sense of frustration from results of previous games, the team spirit was not shaken at all. I have big confidence in the team’s ability to achieve positive results.”
Al Ramady is targeting 22 or 23 points as the watermark his side will need to achieve safety this term, adding: “This match it is not possible to win six points, each match is important but we cannot win more than three points.”
Both teams found the woodwork but no goals as a raucous crowd of 5,781 had to be content with a point apiece in this top of the table clash.
Makhete Diop almost broke the crossbar in the first half while substitute Tareq Ahmed volleyed against the foot of the post and Majed Nasser tipped Sebastian Tagliabue’s fierce strike onto the bar in the second period as two of the Arabian Gulf League’s leading scorers cancelled each other out in a 0-0 draw.
It was the first time Wahda – AGL leading scorers with 14 – had been held scoreless all season, with Shabab Al Ahli playing out their second straight goalless draw.
Friday night’s deadlock was almost broken in the 11th minute when Diop danced his way around the Wahda defence and unleashed a thunderous effort that cannoned back of Mohamed Al Shamsi’s bar.
Diop fired over from his next attempt while Sebastian Tagliabue did likewise with Wahda’s first real sight of goal.
The best chance fell to veteran Tagliabue 10 minutes before the break when he was released by a counter-attacking Mourad Batna, but he was always being pushed wide when he dragged his shot just past Majed Nasser’s post.
Batna has been brilliant for the Clarets this term and he got free twice down the right, his first delivery was behind his teammates while his second was missed by Nasser, but no-one in a white shirt could capitalise.
The game opened up in the second half as Wahda introduced Hungary international Balazs Dzsudzsak at the break, and he was the catalyst as the Clarets took charge of proceedings.
It seemed certain they would open the scoring when usually lethal Argentine Tagliabue saw Batna’s deflected strike drop at his feet, but he somehow ballooned over with the goal gaping from six yards.
Ahmed then fired a sweet left foot volley that beat everyone and hit the post following Dzsudzsak’s corner before the hosts could have scored second later when Al Shamsi’s horrible error gifted Shabab Al Ahli possession, but Diop’s tame chip landed safely in Al Shamsi’s grateful grasp.
Moussa Sow then saw a strike blocked by Mohamed Al Dhaheri then fired wide when given a clear sight of goal. Tagliabue would have scored but Nasser tipped his fizzed effort onto the bar.
So no goals, and little satisfaction for either side, who stay with among the leaders but are likely to lose ground presuming Al Ain reclaim top spot against rock bottom Sharjah today.
Cosmin Olaroiu is convinced his strengthening side now possess the power to deliver a knockout blow to fellow Arabian Gulf League title chasers Al Wahda.
Olaroiu, 48, welcomes fellow Romanian Laurentiu Reghecampf to Rashid Stadium Friday when fourth hosts second.
This intriguing clash is packed full of fearsome attackers and belligerent defenders, with the allure of striking an early blow in the battle for silverware in their minds.
“The game against Al Wahda is very difficult and very important,” said Olaroiu, whose side are rebounding after a goalless draw at bottom-placed Sharjah last week.
“Our team has become more powerful, our level is increasing from one game to the next.”
Meanwhile, Al Jazira boss Henk ten Cate has admitted he’s spoiled for choice as the flailing champions look to make up ground away at Hatta.
A depleted Pride of Abu Dhabi drew 0-0 with fast-starting Al Wasl last Friday. This picture has changed for tonight’s clash, France anchorman Lassana Diarra plus UAE creative hope Khalfan Mubarak among those returning to training this week.
Ten Cate said: “I have a problem with the selection of the players because of the abundance of options. In any case, I put my full confidence in the ability of all players.”
Wasl supremo Rodolfo Arruabarrena wants to end talk of his charges being a one-man team when they welcome Dibba Al Fujairah Thursday.
A quiet night for six-goal forward Fabio De Lima played a big part in the preceding draw at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.
Arruabarrena said. “We are a single team and we do not rely on a single star because the team of one player does not achieve anything in football.”