x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Goalkeeper high on wanted list for Pro League champions Al Ain

The UAE football club determined to sort out problems between the sticks, now that it looks like Cosmin Olaroiu will remain coach, reports John McAuley.

Dawoud Sulaiman, centre, is one of Al Ain's three goalkeepers. Mike Young / The National
Dawoud Sulaiman, centre, is one of Al Ain's three goalkeepers. Mike Young / The National

With manager Cosmin Olaroiu all but certain to stay on, Al Ain have now made the acquisition of an accomplished goalkeeper their priority.

For much of their successful title defence last season, the UAE champions flitted between Dawoud Sulaiman, Mahmoud Al Mas and Abdullah Sultan, with Sulaiman considered the most reliable, featuring in 19 of the 26 Pro League matches.

In the Asian Champions League, Sulaiman and Al Mas each played three of Al Ain's six Group D fixtures, although Sulaiman contributed a costly error in the game against Iran's Esteghlal.

Al Ain appear already well stocked in that department Yousuf Abdulrahman, the Emirati who at age 21 was first choice, before a near-fatal car accident in September 2010, continues his recovery and played at Al Shaab on loan last year. Al Ain will wait to assess him pre-season, and he could be a ready-made No 1.

Only last month, the coach conveyed his unease regarding the No 1 jersey, stating: "When I checked the statistics this season, I found that the goals scored against us were by more than 65 per cent as a result of goalkeepers' mistakes. I hope this won't happen again."

To ensure it does not, Al Ain have targeted Khalid Essa, Al Jazira's deputy goalkeeper, who recently revealed a desire to seek another club to compete with teammate Ali Kasheif for the UAE national team spot.

Essa, 23, is out of contract, although Jazira confirmed this week they expect him to renew his agreement. Should Al Ain approach him, though, it could represent too good an opportunity to refuse. A club source confirmed he formed their No 1 target to fill the role between the goalposts, and Olaroiu seems certain to attempt to push through a deal when he returns from holiday.

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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