Omar Abdulrahman can exhibit a petulant disposition at the best of times. When not in the mood to conduct post-match interviews, though to his credit he regularly permits them to Arabic media, the Al Ain superstar ensures there are no doubts about his intentions.
His body language was all smouldering frustration on Saturday night as he sloped through the 30-metre long mixed zone at Jeonju World Cup Stadium.
Requests from the throngs of journalists crammed behind rickety barricades were swatted away in an instant, be they from familiar UAE faces or even the South Korean journalists who expressed their fascination about a player beyond compare in Asia.
The team coach and its safety from intrusion beckoned after a night in which the 2002/03 winners let a lead slip to be 2-1 in arrears heading into Saturday’s 2016 AFC Champions League final-decider at home to South Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.
On some occasions, the – now grown-up – boy wonder of UAE football can appear cosseted, spoiled even. Yet his behaviour on Saturday night was perfectly excusable.
Tactical decisions and circumstance outside his control had prevented a playmaker touched by greatness from seizing it on the grandest stage currently available to him. Coach Zlatko Dalic got many things right during a thrilling game in which Al Ain competed as fiercely as their opponents.
But, Abdulrahman was unquestionably misused in Jeonju. A run-out as a ‘false nine’ in the semi-final, second leg at Qatar’s El Jaish had produced a fine goal and an effervescent display. Yet it soon become apparent that this time, the chemistry was not right.
Penned back by unceasing opponents, ‘Amoory’ was soon left scrapping for aimless punts up the pitch as the focal point in a 4-3-3 formation as a lack of confidence and time prevented Al Ain from playing through their talented midfield.
Working magic with the ball at his feet is Abdulrahman’s calling card, not fighting for headers with 6ft 4in South Korean centre-backs such as Lim Jong-eun. On the rare occasion he was able to gain possession in the pockets between midfield and attack where he normally prevails, excellence occurred.
A nutmeg and fiercely hit shot produced a fine save from goalkeeper Kwon Sun-tae, soon before his nimble footwork under pressure teed up Danilo Asprilla for the 63rd-minute opener.
The obvious solution for the return leg at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium is to restore centre forward Douglas to the starting XI in the usual 4-2-3-1. The tall Brazilian’s presence will grant ‘Amoory’ freedom to wreak havoc.
With Abdulrahman in full flow, the visible gaps in the Jeonbuk backline from the first skirmish can turn into gaping chasms. It is also up to the ‘Ainawy’ to recreate the cauldron atmosphere from Jeonju. Thousands of green flags and sonorous chanting played its part in inspiring Brazilian forward Leonardo to his brace.
The Hazza has seen such nights before, notably in the round-of-16 clash against Al Jazira two years ago. Even football’s finest conductors need a helping hand, on occasion. Given the right circumstances, ‘Amoory’ has proven time and again that he will deliver.