Watching over Olaroiu
Pre-game There will be more tension between these two sides as the season goes on and most of it will find Olaroiu at the centre. Ahli’s vocal fans got their shot in early, unfurling a banner in support of their coach. It read, simply and honestly: “Cosmin, we trust.”
Kick-off Just as the game was about to begin, Olaroiu stepped out and gave his successor at Al Ain, the Uruguayan Jorge Fossati, a gracious bear hug. The Ainawi faithful still booed him heartily, though.
5th min Olaroiu is an intimidating presence wherever he goes, but most of all on the edge of the technical area. When Radoi went in with a nasty kneehigh, studs-up challenge on Abdulaziz Sanquor underneath Olaroiu’s nose, the coach was the first to call for a card. It warranted red, but got yellow.
24 Olaroiu’s first touch of the ball, as it zipped out of play, was an insouciant slice that saw it land behind him in his own dug-out. Cue more boos.
52 As Ahli began to dominate, a promising Ismail Al Hammadi run was broken down near the penalty area. Olaroiu betrayed the first bit of emotion, nearly tearing his shirt off in trying to pull it over his head in frustration.
66 It does not come often, but he has a pretty charming smile. Once the referee overturned a throwin decision in Ahli’s favour, out it came, with a sweet double thumbs up in the official’s direction as well.
Having remained as still as the Sphinx through the shootout, Olaroiu let out a little fist pump as the last penalty was saved by Majed Naser. He then went to hug all his former charges, including a long, consoling one for Omar Abdulrahman – who had missed a penalty – before joining his players in muted celebration.