Although Al Ahli remain on course for an unprecedented domestic treble, their safe negotiation of the League Cup group stages did not provide much reason for encouragement.
Ciel saves Al Ahli’s lethargic play against Al Shabab in UAE League Cup
AL AHLI 1 AL SHABAB 1
Al Ahli - Ciel 90’
Al Shabab - Omar Ali 48’
Man of the match - Omar Ali (Al Shabab)
DUBAI // Although Al Ahli remain on course for an unprecedented domestic treble, their safe negotiation of the League Cup group stages did not provide much reason for encouragement.
The Rashid Stadium side Monday night entertained Al Shabab in what was effectively a dead rubber in Group B, as the only outcome not yet decided was where the hosts would finish in their pool.
By dint of a largely lethargic 1-1 draw, and Al Dhafra’s 4-0 victory against Emirates, Ahli progress as runners-up to the semi-finals on March 15, where they will face a tricky tie at Sharjah.
That the runaway leaders of the Arabian Gulf League and the finalists for May’s President’s Cup showpiece maintain aspirations of lifting all three trophies this term seemed to offer little cheer.
Ahli’s players appeared as if this derby against Shabab was little more than an unnecessary inconvenience.
Coach Cosmin Olaroiu might have sent out what was mainly his second string, but the endeavour and application was still a long way from last week’s fine 2-2 draw at Al Hilal in the Asian Champions League.
“We’re not happy with what we saw on the pitch,” said Catalin Raducan, the Ahli assistant coach, after he had watched Ciel drill home a late equaliser to cancel out Omar Ali’s 48th-minute opener. “I can understand maybe it’s difficult to motivate the players after the Champions League, when they played in front of 40,000 fans.
“But when you give chances to players who don’t usually play you expect them to be motivated, to play for the Ahli shirt.
“We’re not angry because they made mistakes, but because they didn’t show the fight or the spirit that the other team did. They must understand here is Al Ahli club and when you put on the shirt you have only one option: to win the game and give 100 per cent for the team.”
Ahli did not do either.
Yet they emerged with that three-pronged ambition intact, while Shabab must content themselves with an unlikely tilt at the league title.
For a shadow Shabab side, the result against their closest rivals said much about the depth of talent at the club.
“We have given chances to those who haven’t participated much to the team and tonight they proved that they are part of the group and deserve to be here,” said Jose Esdras, the Al Shabab assistant coach. “We take care of the second team just as we do the first.”
EMIRATES 0 AL DHAFRA 4
Al Dhafra secured a home semi-final in the UAE League Cup against Al Jazira after topping Group B. Hamad Raqea scored two goals before the break and Makhete Diop (55th minute) and Abdelrahim Hussain (74th) added two second-half goals for Dhafra.
AL WASL 2 AL NASR 3
Al Nasr had to hang on at the finish against Al Wasl before securing bragging rights in the Bur Dubai derby. Nasr led through goals from Ibrahima Toure, Khaleefa Mubarak and Ali Al Ameri before a second-half Saeed Al Kathiri double gave the scoreline respectability.