Henrique Luvannor says Shabab Al Ahli's Arabian Gulf Cup success down to Rodolfo Arruabarrena
Brazilian-born Moldovan striker on target in 3-1 extra-time win over Al Wahda in Friday's final in Al Ain
Forward Henrique Luvannor has dedicated Shabab Al Ahli’s Arabian Gulf Cup success to manager Rodolfo Arruabarrena, as the club sealed a first trophy under its current banner.
The Dubai side, the result of a 2017 merger between Al Ahli, Al Shabab and Dubai club, defeated Al Wahda 3-1 in extra time on Friday night. The match at Al Ain’s Hazza bin Zayed Stadium had finished 1-1 in normal time, with Luvannor opening the scoring.
Shabab Al Ahli have now set sights on the double this season, since they will later contest the President’s Cup final against Al Dhafra. They look likely to also qualify for next year’s Asian Champions League, considering they sit fourth in the Arabian Gulf League with nine rounds remaining.
It marks a remarkable turnaround since Argentine Arruabarrena was appointed in October after Shabab Al Ahli had made a miserable start to the campaign. With Jose Luis Sierra in charge, they lost three of their opening five league matches to languish in eighth.
Arruabarrena continues to burnish a reputation forged at Al Wasl, though, when he guided the club to successive top-three finishes in the league and two cup finals before leaving last May.
And Luvannor puts Shabab Al Ahli's recent rude health down to his manager.
“We had good players, but we didn’t have a good team,” the Brazilian-Moldovan said. “Now Rodolfo’s come, he saw this and he’s made a team, he made a family. So everything we are doing is because of him.
“He made this spirit in the club, he made the club to be proud, to be a family, to help each other. We don’t give up any ball. We believe until the end. So we have to continue because the season is still not finished. Now we have the league, so we have two days off to enjoy and then come back to work.”
Luvannor has not even ruled out a late title challenge, however unlikely that seems. At present, Shabab Al Ahli are 11 points behind leaders Sharjah. The wideman is well placed to give his thoughts on the current situation at the club having moved across with the merger after spending the previous three years with Shabab.
At the time, Ahli had been one of the most successful sides in the UAE for the previous half decade, winning the league twice and multiple cup competitions. In 2015, they finished runner-up in the Champions League.
Understandably, Luvannor wants a return to that level of success.
“Here, the people are used to it,” he said. “Before they win the league, they win the cup, they win the President’s Cup. In the beginning of the season they said our target is to win everything: the league, the cup and the President’s Cup.
“So we are in a good way. We are still alive in all the competitions, so we will fight until the end. We will not give up now.”
Updated: March 23, 2019 04:05 PM