x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Al Ahli focus on quality coach

Last night's 2-1 defeat at second place Baniyas was the final match for their temporary coach, Abdul Hamid al Mastaka.

Action from the Baniyas - Al Ahli football game.
Action from the Baniyas - Al Ahli football game.

ABU DHABI // Ahmad Khalifa Hammad, the chief executive officer of Al Ahli, last night promised his club's fans that David O'Leary's replacement will be a "top quality" coach who would bring success to the team.

Last night's 2-1 defeat at second place Baniyas was the final match for their temporary coach, Abdul Hamid al Mastaka, who took charge after the former Leeds United and Aston Villa coach was dismissed earlier this season.

The O'Leary experiment did not work, even with Fabio Cannavaro, the World Cup-winning captain, on board.

The Italian did not play last night due to a thigh strain, and Hammad was determined to get the next appointment right after what has been a disappointing campaign for the Dubai club.

He said: "We have an excellent list of candidates and we are going to definitely select someone this month.

"The players report back on July 10 for pre-season training and the new coach will be in place before that.

"We would like to do this as soon as possible because there will be a lot of work for him to carry out.

"He will be a foreign coach, not a UAE national.

"He may come from Britain, Europe or South America. I will not discuss names but what I will say is that he will be top quality who will move the club forward.

"We want someone with good experience and who has a track record of working with young players, someone who can help us win trophies. We will make an announcement soon."

If Al Ahli's season did not go as planned, the same could not be said for an excellent Baniyas side that were just unfortunate to come up against the all-conquering Al Jazira.

The first half last night was pretty uninspiring.

Baniyas' first chance came after 11 minutes when Saqer Hammadi's attempted cross was saved by Yousif Abdulla from under his own bar.

On 21 minutes, Tariq Ahmad at least had a shot on goal for the visitors, although his effort was well wide of the target.

However, even in an underwhelming affair, Andre Senghor was destined to score.

His first came in the 39th minute when he powered a header into the top corner as he got on the end of a Haboush Saleh Habou cross.

Senghor almost got a second just before the hour mark when his power took him past Abdelaziz Hussain, the Al Ahli defender, but for once his radar was off and the Senegal international's shot trickled wide.

Baniyas won a penalty on 63 minutes when Habou's shot clearly hit the outstretched hand of Faisal Khalil.

Mustafa Kareem appeared confident as he decided on a short run-up, but then sent his spot kick high into the stand.

Ahli made him pay for that miss four minutes later. The Dubai side's goal came from a free kick the best part of 30-yards from goal, and Tariq Ahmad sent his fiercely hit shot past Mohammed Ghuloom in the Baniyas goal.

But Senghor, the Pro League top scorer, got his second goal, and his 18th overall from an extraordinary campaign, to win the match.

He expertly controlled a high ball on his chest and then volleyed home with eight minutes remaining.

 

ncameron@thenational.ae