DUBAI // Since his 2007 Asian Cup triumph with Iraq, Jorvan Vieira often has been described as the man with the Midas touch.
Glimpses of his skills were evident at Kalba last season, as well, when the little side from Sharjah emirate gave Al Ain, the country's most decorated club, a scare before succumbing in a relegation fight.
It was only natural for Baniyas to go searching for this man. A young team with plenty of ambitions, both domestically and continental, they wanted someone to guide them to the next level. Vieira boasted the perfect CV.
Things, however, have not gone to plan. First, Andre Senghor went AWOL during the close season. Vieira usually had to train without his front line players, who were on duty with the national or Olympic teams.
Last month, tragedy struck the club, and UAE football, when the midfielder Theyab Awana died in a car crash.
Despite these problems, Vieira has tried to remain upbeat, but the results on the pitch have been far from positive.
Starting the season with a 4-1 defeat at Al Shabab, Baniyas suffered their third defeat in four Etisalat Cup matches last night, going down 3-1 at Al Ahli. They lost to Al Nasr at home last week and their lone point comes from a 1-1 draw with Ajman.
Missing their biggest signing of the season, David Trezeguet, through injury and still waiting on a fourth foreign signing, Baniyas were clearly second-best against a team boasting the attacking talents of Grafite, the energy of Jakson Coelho and silky skills of Luis Jimenez. The visitors had just one of their foreigners, Senghor, available for the game; Oman's Fawzi Basheer is also on national duty.
Coelho, usually the busiest man on the pitch in every Ahli game, was the first to give Baniyas the jitters. His curling free kick from the right dipped behind the defensive wall and the goalkeeper Mohammed Khalef had to make a desperate lunge to keep the ball out.
In the 10th minute, a Yousuf Jaber header for his keeper almost gave Ahli the lead, the ball ballooning over the advancing Khalef and landing on the roof of the net.
The home fans did not have to wait long to celebrate their first goal, though, as Juma Sanqoor floated a well-measured ball in to the box in the 20th minute and Grafite, the Brazilian, faced few problems in heading it home.
Jimenez, Ahli's third big signing of the summer, then gave a thundering display of his skills, which once had the likes of Inter Milan and Lazio chasing the Chilean's signature. Taking a free kick from just outside the box in the 33rd minute, Jimenez cannoned the ball over the Baniyas wall into the far corner of the net.
Baniyas pulled one back before the break after Sanqoor had pulled down Adnan Al Balooshi inside the box. Senghor, who had earlier missed a golden opportunity in the 26th minute after Rashid Najem had drawn the Ahli keeper out, converted from the spot in the 44th minute.
The Senegalese striker, however, was a virtual passenger in the second half as Ahli dictated the terms. The home side, however, failed to convert any more of their chances until the substitute Faisal Khalil flicked home Ahli's third in the 82nd minute. The hard-working Tariq Ahmed headed Coelho's cross into Khalil's path and the Ahli fan-favourite left the Baniyas defence and keeper stranded with a smart finish.
The convincing manner of the win should give Ahli a big confidence boost ahead of their Pro League opener at Al Jazira on Saturday. Baniyas, meanwhile, will travel to Ajman a day later and Vieira will be hoping the return of his national team players, Oman's Basheer and possibly Trezeguet will turn things around for his beleaguered team.
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