ABU DHABI // The first phase of Al Wahda's preparation under Karel Jarolim has passed successfully.
Playing in a four-team friendly tournament, the Arabian Gulf League side finished unbeaten in second place, behind Al Fateh of Saudi Arabia, after two draws and rounding off with a 1-0 win over Saudi side Al Shabab, courtesy of substitute Bader Al Harthi, at Al Nahyan Stadium on Friday night.
"We don't play for results in these friendly matches, but to come off any competition with a good record makes you feel the team is on the right track," Jarolim said.
"The very idea of the friendly tournament was for us to have a look at the majority of the players in action, for us to try out new combinations and to improve on the areas we need to improve.
"We are quite pleased with the first part of our preparation, although the humid weather was not the ideal to play at the same level for the full 90 minutes."
Wahda will travel to Austria for a three-week camp after Eid for the next phase of their preparation, with a few more friendlies planned during this period.
Jarolim's side, the tournament hosts, was denied victories in the first two matches by the Kuwait Olympic team, as well as the eventual champions, Fateh, through late equalisers.
Kuwait cancelled Mahmoud Khamis' 19th-minute lead two minutes from time and Fateh scored an injury-time equaliser after Mohammed Al Shehhi had given them a 24th-minute lead.
"We made a few late substitutions and conceded a goal each in the first two games, due to the lack of understanding between the players, but they showed a lot of improvement to preserve the lead in the final game," the coach said.
"Obviously, there is a lot of work to be done to establish a strong and bigger squad for the long season ahead."
Jarolim had a good look at the club's new foreign players – Chilean international Marco Estrada, Argentines Sebastian Tagliabue and Damian Diaz, and Dino Djulbic, the Australian centre-back who joined the Abu Dhabi club in the middle of last season.
"I didn't want to tax them too much on these harsh conditions," Jarolim said when asked about the performances of the foreign players.
"They have all come from top flight clubs and I believe they are some of the club's high-profile signings in a while. I am in no hurry to rush them into games so early in the season.
"I have discussed with them their roles and how best they can contribute to the team.
"They would also need the contributions from the local players around them and I feel we have a good number of them at the club.
"We still have around four weeks before the start of the competitions and from the information I have gathered it is going to be the most competitive season.
"I feel we are on the right track and are fully prepared for the challenges ahead and will hopefully fulfil the objectives of our fans."
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