x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Arabian Gulf League history at hand for Olaroiu and Al Ahli

One point from four remaining matches will hand Al Ahli their first league title in five seasons

Ali Mabkhout, left, of Al Jazira fights for the ball with Walid Abbas of Al Ahli during their Arabian Gulf League match at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on April 6, 2014. Ravindranath K / The National
Ali Mabkhout, left, of Al Jazira fights for the ball with Walid Abbas of Al Ahli during their Arabian Gulf League match at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on April 6, 2014. Ravindranath K / The National

ABU DHABI // Cosmin Olaroiu is on the verge of creating history by becoming the first coach to win the UAE top-flight championship three years in a row.

The Romanian won the league twice at Al Ain and is now just one point away from delivering Al Ahli to a first title in five seasons after the Dubai club registered a resounding 3-1 victory over Al Jazira at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in the capital on Sunday night.

Ahli need only a point from their four remaining games to secure the Arabian Gulf League title, and the celebrations could begin on Thursday when they meet Al Wasl at the Rashid Stadium.

“We still have to win a point and in football everything is possible. It has been a hectic schedule for us, but we need to keep this momentum going until we have achieved our goals,” said Catalin Raducan, the Ahli assistant coach.

“It was a difficult game against a good side, but we were at 100 per cent tonight against them and deserved to win. We are also a team that has played consistently well throughout the season and deserve to be in the first place.”

Ahli scored twice within three first-half minutes to set the platform for victory. Ahmed Khalil broke the deadlock on 36 minutes and Basheer Saeed added a second soon after.

Grafite, the Brazilian forward, extended the lead from the penalty spot five minutes after the break before Jazira scored a consolation goal through Jucilei.

Jazira were unlucky on the half-hour, when Abdelaziz Barrada played a through pass for UAE forward Ali Mabkhout, the Emirati dribbled inside the penalty area before brushing past Abdulaziz Sanquer, the Ahli defender, and unleashed a low shot that crashed against the far post.

It proved costly. Ahli scored at the other end six minutes later.

Humaid Abbas split the Jazira defence with a pass and Khalil came out on top in his one-on-one against Jazira goalkeeper Ali Kasheif.

Ahli doubled their lead three minutes later when Saeed tapped in a corner from Portuguese midfielder Hugo Viana.

The visitors started the second half in much the same vain as they finished the first and won a spot kick when Barrada was penalised for a catching Khalil with high foot. Grafite dispatched the spot kick for his 17th league goal of the campaign.

“We fell 2-0 behind in the first half and conceded a third early in the second half and the game was all over for us,” said Walter Zenga, the Jazira coach. “We had a good first half. Had we been a bit lucky with the shot that hit the post, it could have been a different story.”

It was Jazira’s sixth game without a victory, and Zenga acknowledged he had a hard task ahead of him in getting his players back on the winning path.

“I have to reorganise myself and find solutions to the problems. Hopefully we can arrive with a solution when we meet Emirates next [Thursday] and then travel to Doha to play Al Rayyan in the ACL [April 16],” the Italian said

apassela@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter at @SprtNationalUAE