x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Asia minor part of Al Ahli’s season-long push for glory

Olaroiu bemused by facing yet another former employer in Qatari side Al Sadd

Al Ahli goalkeeper Saif Abdulla, right, grabs the ball in front of Al Hilal players during their Asian Champions League Group D match in Riyadh on February 26, 2014. Fayez Nureldine / AFP
Al Ahli goalkeeper Saif Abdulla, right, grabs the ball in front of Al Hilal players during their Asian Champions League Group D match in Riyadh on February 26, 2014. Fayez Nureldine / AFP

DUBAI // Cosmin Olaroiu says the Asian Champions League is not high on Al Ahli’s list of priorities for this season, but he is still keen to get a win against his former team Al Sadd when they meet on Wednesday night at the Rashid Stadium.

Ahli are competing for silverware in all three domestic competitions – the Arabian Gulf League, President’s Cup and the League Cup – and winning the league title is top of Olaroiu’s agenda.

“The main competition for us is the league,” the Romanian said. “But though the Champions League is not the main priority for us, we will try our best.

“I want to win every game, it doesn’t matter which competition, which level. I always want to win because football is all I have, football is all I am. It is my life and when I go home at night, when I go to sleep, I know I have done my best to win each game I play.”

Olaroiu will bring the same determination to the pitch tonight as he returns to the Ahli dugout for the second time since his domestic suspension by the UAE Football Association.

The previous time was two weeks ago against another former club, Al Hilal, and the Ahli coach is finding it a little disconcerting to be playing his former teams.

“Unfortunately, I am playing a former team once again and it is a strange situation,” he said. “It is a great pleasure seeing them. I spent a good time there and they are fantastic people.”

Al Sadd won the Asian Champions League in 2011, the only victory in that competition by a West Asia club since 2005.

“It’s a pleasure to play against them,” Olaroiu said. “I know their strength. This is a team who have won the Champions League, a team with very high technical standards, which have only increased with the addition of Rodrigo Tabata.

“I am sure it is going to be a great game and the people who come to the stadium to watch will enjoy it.”

Al Sadd lead Group D with three points; Ahli drew their opener away to Al Hilal 2-2.

Olaroiu was Sadd manager in 2010 when they visited the Rashid Stadium for a Champions League match and hammered Ahli 5-0.

In 2011, the Qataris went on to win the Champions League and then finished third at the Club World Cup in Japan that year. Now, they boast players such as former Spain and Real Madrid star Raul in their squad.

Hussein Amotta, the Sadd manager, expects a very different Ahli team to the one Sadd faced four years ago.

“That last game was four years ago and almost 80 per cent of the players have changed in both teams,” Amotta said. “Ahli enjoy a different status now. If you look at the results of both teams over the last two years, you will see that both have been doing really well.

“So I don’t think we will see another result like that, but I do expect an exciting match because both teams play open football. There will be plenty of chances, so the fans are really going to enjoy it.

“In the end, whatever the result, I am going to congratulate the winner. The result of this match will not decide who finishes first or second in the group.”

arizvi@thenational.ae

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