x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Arabian Gulf League: New coaches, same fierce rivalry between Al Ahli and Al Ain

Asamoah Gyan recalls two setbacks against Al Ahli and seeks revenge in Super Cup next month, writes Ahmed Rizvi.

Al Ain striker Asamoah Gyan, of Ghana, was last season's top scorer with 31 goals in the league. Silvia Razgova / The National
Al Ain striker Asamoah Gyan, of Ghana, was last season's top scorer with 31 goals in the league. Silvia Razgova / The National

DUBAI // Asamoah Gyan will be looking for revenge when back-to-back league champions Al Ain take on President's Cup winners Al Ahli in the season-opening Super Cup next month.

Al Ain and Ahli met three times last season, with the Dubai club winning twice. The third game, which was halted at 0-0 after an object thrown by a fan injured a linesman, was awarded to Al Ain following a disciplinary committee review.

Winners of the Super Cup last season, Al Ain were first stunned 6-3 at home by Ahli in their opening league match, then the Red Knights knocked them out of the President's Cup in the semis.

That defeat still rankles Gyan and the Ghanian international cannot wait for the Super Cup, scheduled for August 30, to arrive.

"You are trying to get revenge," Gyan said on Friday night following the Arabian Gulf League and Etisalat Cup draw for 2013-14.

"Last season, they won against us. They took us out in the semi-finals of the President's Cup. So it will be an important game for the fans. They cannot wait for this game, we the players as well.

"Our former coach is handling Al Ahli at the moment. So it's going to be interesting and a very difficult game."

Cosmin Olaroiu, who guided Al Ain to the two league titles, made a surprise switch to Ahli in the summer and the Romanian's move has further fuelled the burgeoning rivalry between the two clubs. Al Ain fans have used the social media to express their ire over Olaroiu's decision, which left Gyan surprised as well.

"He has done extremely well to bring two league titles in a row for the team," said Gyan, last season's top scorer with 31 goals in the league. "I don't know the reason why he left … I don't want to get involved, I don't want to know anything about it.

"What I have to say is he has done so well for the club and everybody respects him in Al Ain. I wish him well with his new club and welcome our new coach. Life goes on. That's football - there are transfers and everything.

"The fans might be angry, but in life, things happen. So one day, they will just forget about it and move on in their life."

Uruguayan Jorge Fossati, winner of the AFC Champions League with Qatari club Al Sadd in 2011, has been announced as the new Al Ain coach and Gyan is confident the club can continue their impressive march under the new manager.

"At long last, a new coach has arrived," he said. "We have been waiting for about a week and finally we got a new coach, an experienced coach. He won the Champions League and I think with his experience, he is going to help the club to continue our run because we have won two league titles in a row."

Fossati will make his first appearance as coach Sunday at a news conference at the club.

arizvi@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE