x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Back to the grind for UAE's Gulf Cup hero Omar Abdulrahman

Just 3,000 supporters turned up to welcome back Al Ain's Gulf Cup winners in their 4-0 Pro League win over Ajman, writes Amith Passela.

Al Ain's Omar Abdulrahman, left, scored one goal and helped set up three more in his team's 4-0 win yesterday. Jaime Puebla / The National
Al Ain's Omar Abdulrahman, left, scored one goal and helped set up three more in his team's 4-0 win yesterday. Jaime Puebla / The National

It was a case of back down to earth with a bump for Omar Abdulrahman and the rest of Al Ain's Gulf Cup heroes.

Just over a week since playing in front more than 35,000 screaming fans at Bahrain's National Stadium as the UAE brought home the trophy, the mercurial midfielder was cheered on by about a tenth of that number as he made his first Pro League start since the tournament.

Whenever Al Ain play at home there is usually a significant fan presence, but it was much less than the players may have anticipated in a game against Ajman that was Al Ain's first home league match in more than eight weeks.

Al Ain had four players in the triumphant UAE squad but the one who stood out from the rest was Abdulrahman - the player of the tournament.

He and Mohammed Ahmed were in Cosmin Olaroiu's line-up while Mohanad Salem Al Enazi and Dawoud Sulaiman, the goalkeeper who did not play during his time with the national team, were left out.

With the dust settled on the euphoria of the Gulf Cup celebrations, only around 3,000 fans turned up.

But those who did come were treated to a statement of intent from Al Ain, who won 4-0 despite the absence of Asamaoh Gyan, their 21-goal striker who is with Ghana at the African Cup of Nations.

Abdulrahman was the standout player again. He was behind every move and all four goals Al Ain scored.

He sent a return pass to Helal Saeed, who found Jires Kembo-Ekoko unmarked on his left and set him up with a clear shot at goal to give Al Ain an early lead.

There were oohs and aahs in anticipation whenever he was in possession.

Abdulrahman was more authoritative in the second half as he slipped a pass towards Alex Brosque for the Australian to double the lead.

He also had his name etched on the scoresheet when he scored from the penalty spot for Al Ain to virtually seal the three points and was part of a fine passing move for the fourth.

"You just can't keep him out of the action because he is there at the right place in the right time," Abdul Kareem, an Al Ain fan, said.

"Without doubt he is the best player in the country and the best player in the entire Gulf."

Ahmed Saeed, another fan, said more of the club supporters would have turned up but they were taking advantage of the long weekend to travel out of the city.

"Had they been in town they certainly would have been at the stadium," he said.

"This game is not a reception for the Gulf Cup heroes. We have given them a very warm welcome and reception when they arrived from Bahrain. It is not just the Al Ain players but the entire squad."

Humaid Al Mansouri even compared Abdulrahman to Diego Maradona and likened his goal against Iraq in the Gulf Cup final to the Argentine legend's second goal against England in the 1986 World Cup which he has watched on YouTube.

"He is our own Maradona you can say," he said. "I have been following the game in the country for more than 20 years and I haven't seen anyone technically at a higher level than him."



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