Mohanad Salem: Title triumph will help ACL quest

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Determined: Asamoah Gyan.

Al Ain’s Arabian Gulf League title triumph has provided the perfect lift for tonight’s vital continental assignment, according to defender Mohanad Salem.

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The Boss have been forced to delay celebrations from Friday’s coronation because of their AFC Champions League clash against Group B basement club Al Shabab Riyadh.

They currently sit a point off the pace in second, victory in the Saudi Arabian capital allied with Pakhtakor failing to beat leaders Naft Tehran enough to secure a roundof-16 berth with one game to spare.

“We will enter the field in high spirits,” Salem said. “We are in a great position after winning the Arabian Gulf League, which has provided a morale boost for all of the squad.

“Our desire is to follow up on our strong results and return with the three points from Saudi Arabia.”

A new face is to greet Al Ain in the opposite dugout since their goalless opening Group B meeting, Egyptian Adel Abdulrahman being elevated from his position as coach of the Under-23s side last month following a poor run under previous incumbent Jaime Pacheco.

The White Lions should provide the perfect opposition for Al Ain striker Asamoah Gyan, who is finding his way back to full fitness.

The Ghana captain was the ACL’s top scorer in 2014 with 12 strikes and has vowed to return to the goal trail at King Fahd International Stadium.

He said: “I do not know if I will score or not, but I always try to give my best in every game. But the important aspect is that the team should win.”

Al Ain will be without Slovakia winger Miroslav Stoch as he serves a four-match ACL suspension, but defensive midfielder Ahmed Barman is back from his ban.

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Late goal puts Al Ahli’s Champions League qualification ambitions on hold

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Eye on the ball: Ahmed Khalil battles for possession against Al Ahli in Jeddah.

Hammerblows have been no stranger to Al Ahli during an often-dreadful 2014/15 campaign. But few would have felt worse than last night’s.

The Red Knights suffered the injustice of Majed Hassan’s dismissal for mistaken identity when a goal to the good, followed by the subsequent pain of Bruno Cesar’s 94th-minute winner for now AFC Champions League Group D winners Al Ahli Jeddah. 

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The error from referee Abdullah Baloushi was both glaring and grating. It saw Ahli go from the verge of a historic-first round-of-16 qualification with a game to spare, to the painful possibility that even victory in their final clash at home to bottom-placed Tractor Sazi may not be enough depending on Nasaf’s result.

Hassan was heartbroken on the final whistle, breaking down in tears and screaming as he was held back by coach Cosmin Olaroiou. Police surrounded the Qatari official, preventing the inconsolable UAE defensive midfielder from doing something truly regrettable.

The suffering was added to by the quality of what went before. Ahli resembled the redoubtable side that stormed to the treble in 2013/14 rather than the stuttering version that has sunk down the Arabian Gulf League standings this term. Their opponents have not lost in regulation time all season and had won their last seven Saudi Professional League matches. But Al Malaki were made to look limited last night.

The opener on 16 minutes was a stunner. Everton Ribeiro set the tone throughout during a long-awaited breakthrough performance, looking every inch the Brazil playmaker of high repute signed in the winter transfer market.

His measured low finish from 20 yards skipped past goalkeeper Abdullah Al Maiouf following a driving run from out wide.

The hosts peppered the opposing goal from a variety of angles and situations, Ribeiro ably carrying the ball with purpose on the counter when it fell his way. Al Malaki midfielder Mustafa Al Bassas headed criminally wide when unmarked in response, before the excellent Ahmed Dida tipped Egypt full-back Mohamed Abdel-Shafy’s pot shot from 20 yards away.

The narrative did not change after the interval, even including the Baloushi’s shoddy mistake – the Jeddah outfit continued to set the tempo, their namesakes preying on any mistakes. Substitute Cesar was clearly felled by compatriot Ribeiro, innocent bystander Hassan being erroneously handed a second yellow card despite standing just in front of the infraction.

Overstretched and overworked, old boy Osvaldo rattled the Red Knights post with venom from 10 yards. Ahli Jeddah’s numerical advantage was finally made to count on 78 minutes, substitute striker Mohanad Aseri nodding the leveller back across Dida’s goal from rampaging right-back Amiri Kurdi’s centre.

The knife to the heart came deep into injury time, former Benfica midfielder Cesar half-volleying in with venom as Ahli were beaten to the ball in their box. A once-promising evening had turned into agony.

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PLC put budding Emirati officials through their paces

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Budding officials take the PLC course.

Following a large number of applicants to its Match Officials recruitment and training programme, UAE football’s Pro League Committee has completed the second phase of its recruitment and training drive to enlist young Emiratis to participate in match organisation.

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Launched by online submission in February, at the initial stage of application submissions candidates undertook face-to-face interviews over a period of 3 days in Dubai and four days in Abu Dhabi, enabling the PLC team to get acquainted with applicants’ skill sets, qualifications and experience, and assess their suitability to become PLC Match Officials.

The interview process was then rounded off by an evaluation of all the candidates to determine those who would be invited to enroll in the training programme.

The PLC will begin the training sessions on Monday, 27th April, with sessions running in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi until June.

Training will include lectures, practical learning, and site visits to clubs in order to prepare the budding officials for the roles. The course will be concluded with assessment tests to ensure the readiness of the trainees to assume their roles.

Suhail Al Areefi, CEO of the Pro League Committee, stressed that the aim of the initiative is to prepare young, ambitious Emiratis for exciting roles within match organisation to the benefit of UAE football. 

“As directed by the PLC’s Executive Office, we have put the Match Officials training program into place in order to prepare our Emirati talent not only for organising matches in the UAE, but also to achieve the levels of understanding in order to represent the UAE as Match Officials in continental and international competitions,” said Al Areefi.

“We received many submissions from young, driven Emiratis who want to work in match organisation, confirming the interest and passion for sport.

“Through the face-to-face interviews we were able to see the enthusiasm and desire of the candidates to contribute to the development of UAE football, and also their ambition to progress to continental and international levels of match organisation.”

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