x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Ali's future unsure as Al Ahli eye Schaefer

The Under 20 coach could resume his national duty again after the sacked Al Ain coach emerges a contender for replacement.

ABU DHABI // The Al Ahli coach Madhi Ali has pledged his immediate future to the Pro League champions, following the exit from the Club World Cup at the hands of Auckland City, but admitted he does not know how long he will be at the Dubai club. "At the moment I am working with Ahli and I am committed to work with this team for a set period of time," said Ali. "When I finish my secondment here I will go back to the national team."

Quizzed on the exact length of his Ahli contract, Ali would only add: "I cannot answer that at the moment." Following Ahli's stuttering start to the season, the club's board contacted the FA president Mohammed al Rumaithi to enquire if Ali could temporarily be released from his post with the UAE Under 20 team. With Ahli's role at the Club World Cup's in mind, al Rumaithi agreed to let his man go. "As a gesture, we didn't hesitate to give them our coach and I think Mahdi will be a success," said al Rumaithi at the time.

But after Ahli fell at the first Club World Cup hurdle, there is nothing stopping al Rumaithi if he wanted Ali back in the international set-up. Furthermore, Winfried Schaefer, the former Ahli coach who was sacked by Al Ain two weeks ago, is a possible contender to replace Ali. Schaefer led Ahli to the domestic league title in the 2005/06 season - his first year at the club. Meanwhile, Hassan Ali insisted Ahli's disappointing 2-0 defeat against the New Zealanders will motivate them to qualify for next year's Club World Cup. The result saw Auckland progress to a quarter-final tie with Atlante tomorrow, while Ahli crashed out of their home tournament after just one game.

Midfielder Ali, however, said that while his teammates are devastated to be returning to Dubai early, the loss will provide valuable experience and has whet their appetites to compete in more tournaments of prestige in the future. "It was difficult with so many key players missing, but we also missed a bit of luck," said Ali, whose side were without the injured attacking trio of Faisal Khalil, his brother Ahmad and Ismail al Hammadi. "If those players had played we would have won, but instead we did not get the breaks we needed," said Ali. "It was great experience though and it will help us in the long run. We hope to come back next year and this can help us achieve that. We are proud to have represented our country, but we wanted to win so we could play again. On another night we might have won, but it was not to be."

Coach Ali will need to lift his players' morale for their next Pro League game, a tough trip to leaders Al Jazira on December 22. He was at a loss to explain the defeat the amateur side Auckland. "I will review the mistakes, but it's clear we didn't pass the ball well," he said. "If players aren't under pressure and they do not pass the ball properly, then I can't explain that. I don't know what the players were thinking; the foreign players didn't contribute very much. "The players did not deal with Auckland, who are a modest team. Maybe they were scared, or frightened, I don't know. @Email:sports@thenational.ae

Al Nasr won their first three points in the Etisalat Cup to take their tally to five from three games after a 5-2 result over Emirate in group C at the Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai last night. They had the game under control after running up a 3-0 lead at half time through Khalid Ibrahim, the Moroccan Ali Boussaboun and Iranian Iman Mobali, and their Moroccan forward Anouar Diba found the net twice to complete the rout. Khamis Ismail and Abdulrahman Khalfan were on target for Emirate, who are yet to win a point in the competition.