Omar Abdulrahman ‘simply the best’ as sumptuous free kick secures win for Al Ain
AL AIN // In desperate need of victory, Al Ain came up with the goods to jolt their Asian Champions League into life.
The UAE champions, expected to challenge on the continent too, had stumbled through their opening two Group D fixtures, recording successive defeats to sit rooted to the bottom.
So three points were required Wednesday night against Jeddah’s Al Ahli at a raucous Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, a win-or-bust match against Saudi Arabia’s league leaders.
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Al Ain got there in the end, belatedly, thankfully. An all-important triumph was secured with some typical magic from their most prized asset. Captain for the night, Omar Abdulrahman lead by example, as so often he does, expertly curling home a free-kick midway through the second half.
Al Ain’s diamond had mined a precious goal. With it, their Champions League quest finally had its spark.
“My players showed character today, a strong mentality, and gave everything from their side, so congratulations to them,” said Al Ain coach Zlatko Dalic, visibly delighted at the accruement of a much-needed victory. “Hopefully, the bad time is behind us, because we had two or three weeks that were very bad, where we lost three games. But now my team come back, is back in the race.
“Simple: we were the better team again. We deserve the three points.”
Al Ain had been the dominant team for the majority, repeatedly testing Ahli goalkeeper Yasser Al Mosailem from range, but could not find the breakthrough. Felipe Bastos tried his luck from dead balls and in open play, Douglas led the line but struggled to create anything. Mohammed Ahmed has a goal chalked offside, perhaps wrongly.
When Al Mosailem was beaten, the crossbar came to his aid, repelling Abdulrahman’s first-half free-kick that arched over the Ahli wall and thumped back off the woodwork.
Yet the Al Ain playmaker was most likely simply getting a sighter, eventually finding the net on 71 minutes as his effort cannoned against the post, this time flying behind Al Mosailem and nestling in the opposite corner. The stadium erupted, much like their No 10, who set off for the delighted home bench and was soon buried among his teammates.
It was timely, too, since Ahli had begun to exert pressure, themselves striking the crossbar not long before. But then Abdulrahman, affectionately known as ‘Amoory’ around Al Ain and farther afield, stepped up to the plate. Star players tend to do it when needed most.
“Omar always improves our team, Omar always gives something more,” Dalic said. “We have a very good team, with very good players, but Omar is special. You can always expect a good pass from him, a good free-kick. When we need him, he does something.
“Because he’s Omar, he’s ‘Amoory’. Simply the best.”
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Updated: March 16, 2016 04:00 AM