A shock 6-3 defeat at the hands of Al Ahli in the first Pro League fixture was the motivation that propelled Al Ain to their subsequent successes so far this season, according to manager Cosmin Olaroiu.
"The loss we got to Al Ahli came on time, which helped the team to wake up quickly, and the performance shown after is the clear evidence of the shock," the Romanian coach told the club's website.
"Keeping well and winning all matches is also good evidence of getting back on track," he said. "We won most of our matches easily, while we faced some hardships in a few, but we hit our targets. Our players have played proudly since the start of the season. The good thing is we finished the first half on top."
Al Ain are unbeaten in 15 matches in all competitions since Ahli scored four second-half goals to win on the title holders' pitch.
Included in that unbeaten run are 11 league victories and one draw, to Al Jazira, leaving Al Ain seven points clear of runners-up Jazira at the halfway point of the league schedule.
Olaroiu suggested that his club's fitness is a factor in their success.
"We find, statistically, that Al Ain players run the most during matches and beat all opponents," he said. "It guaranteed victory for us.
"What makes me happy is the will and determination of our players in all matches regardless of the opponent we faced. We didn't wait for the opponent to make mistakes to score and win. We depended on ourselves and we obliged opponents to make mistakes.
"All we have achieved is not a coincidence. It is out of pre-planning all our matches. In addition, it is the results of players' high concentration and determination."
He suggested that the second half of the season will be more difficult for the 10-time league champions, in part because of six scheduled Asian Champions League matches, with the first on February 27 and the last on April 30. Al Ain will twice play Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia, Al Rayyan of Qatar and Esteghlal of Iran
"I think the second half will be hard because its timetable exceeds the local players' abilities, especially in April when we have eight matches," Olaroiu said. "In the Arabian Gulf region, teams from Qatar and Saudi Arabia have an ideal timetable in league, enabling [them] to show their best in the Champions League."
Olaroiu considers Jazira to be the side most likely to keep Al Ain from a second championship in as many years.
"I have said on many occasions that Al Jazira is the best team, and they have excellent players, despite lower performances in some games.
"I consider Al Jazira and Al Ahli as the strongest opponents for the trophy. Maybe Baniyas can be among them. However, results may affect other teams' performances. To win, you should fight and never wait for help from others."
Al Ain return to Etisalat Cup action on January 10 with a home match against Dubai. Their first league game of the second half is at Al Ahli on January 21.
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