Al Wahda’s malaise showed no signs of lifting on Tuesday when they extended their winless streak to five matches with a goalless draw against neighbours Bani Yas in the Arabian Gulf Cup.
Clarets boss Laurentiu Reghecampf held a fans’ forum at the weekend to discuss his hotly tipped side’s recent struggles. This talk, however, seemed to have little impact as a 100-per-cent record in Group A ended.
Tanzanian forward Yahya Al Ghassani came up short with efforts in both halves for the qualified visitors to Bani Yas Stadium.
Meanwhile, Al Dhafra remain in the mix for a quarter-final berth from Group B after Diego struck the only goal against pointless Sharjah.
The reigning Ligue 2 Player of the Year’s 34th-minute header earned a valuable 1-0 triumph on home soil.
Coach Rodolfo Arruabarrena suffered the first defeat of his Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club reign thanks to a first-half penalty from Dibba Al Fujairah’s Yahya Jabrane.
The Moroccan defensive midfielder got up after he was felled and calmly found the bottom corner, for the Group A clash’s only goal.
Al Wahda coach Laurentiu Reghecampf is confident the weekend’s public forum with fans will halt his side’s slide when they meet Bani Yas in the Arabian Gulf Cup.
The Clarets head into the international break after a four-match winless run in the Arabian Gulf League. Disquiet at this damaging spell from last term’s runners-up saw a meeting held with angered supporters to hear their grievances and discuss solutions moving forward.
The impact of this event could be witnessed on Tuesday when they will look to extend a perfect start in Group A.
“I am happy with the meeting held between the club’s management and the fans,” said Reghecampf.
“This meeting is very positive. It is important to support the public, even with some criticism from them about results.
“They have the right. We had three games and did not win. So I am happy that we met with our fans and talked. We are a proud club with this audience next to us.”
Meanwhile in Monday night’s action, Al Nasr and Al Ain both recorded wins to book their spots in the quarter-finals of the competition.
Marquinhos Gabriel teed up Masoud Sulaiman to open the scoring for the Blue Wave against Al Jazira, who then went 2-0 up three minutes into the second half in Abu Dhabi when Marquinhos’ composed finish doubled his side’s lead.
Sulaiman then went from hero to villain as he felled Leonardo in the box, the winger making no mistake from the spot, although the hosts were unable to find an equaliser.
Brazilian winger Caio scored twice and grabbed an assist as the Boss beat Fujairah 3-1 to also move into the last eight.
Caio’s first half penalty was followed by setting up Jamal Maroof on the hour, with the winger then grabbing his second after 77 minutes to seal the win. Ahmed Murad grabbed a late consolation for the Wolves.
In the night’s other game, Fabio De Lima scored late as Al Wasl earned a 1-0 win over Ajman to keep alive their hopes of making the knockouts. The Cheetahs moved into the fourth automatic place with victory.
Even the biggest talents need someone to believe in them.
Rayan Yaslam is set to be a major figure for Al Ain in next month’s Club World Cup and the UAE in January’s Asian Cup. It wasn’t, however, always this way for the gifted playmaker.
A taste of first-team action was handed to him as an 18-year-old under Cosmin Olaroiu in 2012/13. It would only be fleeting until the arrival of coach Zoran Mamic in February last year changed everything.
The Croatian saw something that countryman Zlatko Dalic didn’t – a latent talent.
From standing on the periphery, Yaslam would go on to score four times in 35 appearances during a historic 2017/18 campaign for the UAE’s most-decorated outfit that contained – remarkably – a first Arabian Gulf League and President’s Cup double.
“It was a huge step since coach Mamic came here,” says the now 23-year-old to Sport360°. “I am really proud of what I did last season.
“We achieved two trophies, so I’m really happy for me and the team.
“I am thanking coach Zoran Mamic for the opportunity. I hope we give all our efforts this year to create another chance to win some trophies again.”
Inspiration in the darkest moments was found close to home.
Older brother Rami, 37, represented the Boss with distinction from 2001-12. This spell included 2002/03’s hallowed AFC Champions League win, plus the harrowing showpiece loss in the same tournament that followed two years later.
The slender midfielder – a likeness between them is startling – also represented the national team in the Asian Cup in 2004.
But when Rayan steps out against New Zealand outfit Team Wellington for the Club World Cup opener at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on December 12, he’ll be achieving something denied to his esteemed sibling.
He says: “I loved football since I was a kid, seeing my big brother playing for Al Ain.
“He was my inspiration when I saw him play and he gave me all my motivation to continue in football, especially at Al Ain.”
The 2017 edition was enlivened by Al Jazira. They made a landmark run to the semi-finals, where they took the lead against European aristocracy Real Madrid prior to a second-half double from Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.
With Madrid the headline act, once again, when the club game’s continental kings clash next month in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, is there pressure to repeat the feats of their ‘Al Clasico’ rivals?
Yaslam replies: “Al Jazira made a very, very good job in the last Club World Cup. We will try, Inshallah, to do the same or better.
“We spoke in the national team [about the CWC]. They spoke about it, how it’s a very different competition and atmosphere.”
The Asian Cup returns in January to the UAE after a 23-year absence. That 1996 generation was denied landmark success via a penalty shootout against Saudi Arabia in the final.
Signs of another deep run in the expanded, 24-team edition are not positive. Coach Alberto Zaccheroni has won just five of his 15 fixtures.
Alarmingly, only eight goals have been scored in this time.
The ex-AC Milan, Juventus and Japan tactician handed Yaslam a first call-up for last December’s 1-0 friendly win against Iraq. A debut would come off the substitutes’ bench in the same month’s Gulf Cup opener against Oman.
This “support” between player and coach is reciprocal, according to Yaslam.
“We just give all that we have to make our fans in the UAE happy,” says four-times-capped Yaslam.
“We give Zaccheroni all our support and we trust in him. Inshallah, we give the UAE fans all that they want in the Asian Cup.”
The 2018 Club World Cup will run from December 12-22.
With less than 30 days to go until kick-off, fans from around the world can still purchase their tickets by visiting fifa.com/cwc/tickets.