Dubai: Arabian Gulf League leaders Al Ahli suffered their first defeat of the season and saw their coach Cosmin Olaroiu banned from the touchline for six months on Sunday.
Olaroiu was sanctioned by the UAE Football Association’s arbitration panel and ordered to pay Dh100,000 for allegedly breaching an agreement to extend his contract with Al Ain to instead join Al Ahli in July.
Olaroiu has already served a three-match ban, during which assistant coach Catalin Raducan took the reins, and paid a penalty of Dh100,000 for criticising his former club.
The 44-year-old Romanian, who won back-to-back league titles with Al Ain, only learnt of his latest ban after his side’s shock 2-1 loss away to Al Wasl on Sunday night.
Maher Jasem tapped in a late winner from a scrambled free-kick after his Al Wasl teammate Andre Senghor’s header had cancelled out Jociel Ferreira’s first-half opener.
Olaroiu has vowed to bounce back from the double blow, but with Al Ahli’s lead at the top of the table now reduced to just one point and their coach suspended until June, the first cracks have started to appear in The Red Knights’ title charge.
“Unfortunately, it wasn’t the best day in the business for us,” said Olaroiu, who is now looking to Friday’s match against second-placed Al Shabab for redemption. “We thought nobody could beat us and that’s the wrong way of thinking.
“We didn’t play with the same spirit and attitude as previous games and we made some mistakes, conceding twice from set pieces. Now we have to forget about this and concentrate on the next game against Al Shabab.
“We are sorry that we had to learn this lesson at this moment but now have to make it right. It doesn’t matter how many times you fall but how many times you stand up.”
Of his ban, Olaroiu added: “I don’t understand why Al Ain are doing this. They knew very well I did not want to continue with them. I told them that. They were in Bucharest and they stayed with me and I told them I cannot continue.
“This will not affect my concentration or my work. I will continue with my duties in the same way. I know the truth and nothing can affect me. I acted in a fair and correct way.”
With this win, Al Wasl coach Hector Cuper has now won three, lost one, drawn one in five league and cup matches since taking over from Laurent Banide last month. The victory also serves as a reviving tonic after their 6-1 defeat away to derby rivals Al Nasr last week.
“We performed well in the second half, increased our rhythm and fought to win with spirit,” Cuper said. “There are still points to rectify in the future, but this win puts us on the right track.”
Elsewhere, Al Shabab maintained the pressure on Al Ahli ahead of their top-of-the-table clash this Friday with a 2-0 home win over Al Nasr on Sunday.
Al Nasr’s loss saw them tumble from third to fifth in the table after Sharjah beat Bani Yas 1-0 and Al Ain thrashed Al Shaab 5-2.
Al Jazira and Al Wasl joined Al Nasr on 16 points after respective wins over Emirates and Al Ahli.
Just four points now separate ninth and third positions in the league, with five points between third and first, making the standings heading into the next round of matches particularly fragile.