x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Al Ain's struggle to close the door

Cosmin Olaroiu's players need to 'work on mistakes' and finish games as they start them.

Al Ain's head coach Cosmin Olaroiu.
Al Ain's head coach Cosmin Olaroiu.

Cosmin Olaroiu, the Al Ain coach, is looking for his club to finish off matches once they have establisted a lead after his team twice surrendered two-goal leads in five Pro League games.

They conceded five second-half goals to Al Ahli to go down 6-3 in their league opener and then surrendered a 2-0 lead as they barely held on for a 2-2 draw against Al Jazira last week.

Such results must be worrying to Olaroiu, although Al Ain were impressive between the Ahli and Jazira matches, thrashing Ajman 4-1, Al Dhafra 7-0 and Dibba Al Fujairah 5-1.

"The players were thinking they had already won the match when we were 2-0 up against Jazira," the Romanian said.

"At the end we were fortunate to return with an away point because they came very close to score a late winner.

"We committed a lot of mistakes and failed to score from the several scoring opportunities we created, particularly in the first half. It is a little disappointing but we can only try to work on our mistakes ahead of the next game."

Al Ain will be at home to face the unbeaten Al Wasl at the Tahnoun bin Mohammed Stadium tonight and Olaroiu expects it to be "another difficult game" for his side.

"They are a much better team than they were last season," he said. "They have dangerous players like [Emiliano] Alfaro and [Mariano] Donda in attack and their defence is solid with Lucas Neill.

"And, of course, all the teams change their approach when they play us because we are the champions. They find a little glory with a good result over us."

Olaroiu will have the full squad at his disposal, including Jires Kembo Ekoko who was forced to leave because of an injury early in the second half after scoring the team's second goal against Jazira.

"This game comes too soon and the players are a little tired after a hard game against Jazira," he said. "We concentrated on the physical side of the training in the last two days but we are prepared well in all areas - technically, physically and mentally."

Wasl and Al Nasr remain the league's only unbeaten teams, but Wasl have dropped some valuable points from three draws, against Nasr, Ahli, and Al Dhafra.

They are also without a coach since Bruno Metsu stepped down due to illness.

However, they have maintained a good level under Gilles Morisseau, Metsu's assistant, winning four points from two league games.

But away to Al Ain, Morisseau faces his biggest test in his four matches in charge in all competitions. "My philosophy has remained the same," Morisseau said. "There is no difference because I work in the same way as [Metsu] worked and I try to keep the same spirit and direction that he wants to give to the team.

"We've passed the last two weeks in a very difficult way. But, believe me, the spirit of Bruno and the mind of Bruno is always in the changing room."

That backdrop also had a unifying effect in the Al Ain camp, with Olaroiu saying he would like to see Metsu back in the Wasl dugout. "Although we are playing a match our prayers are with him and I wish he returns to his position as the Wasl coach," Olaroiu said.

apassela@thenational.ae