The stumbling giants Al Ain and Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club are in danger of being left behind in the 2020/21 Arabian Gulf League title race after an exciting ninth week of play.
The goalless home game against Ajman and Al Dhafra opened a sizeable gap for the leading trio with more than a third of the season played. The undefeated front runners Sharjah had a three-point advantage in a 2-1 win over his former club Al Wasl on Thursday thanks to the exploits of Brazilian striker Welliton. UAE attackers Khalfan Mubarak and Ali Mabkhout parted ways for runner-up Al Jazira 0 in the Capital Derby on Friday, while Al Wahda and center-back Mohammed Ali Ayed headed an entertaining 3-2 triumph for third-placed Al Nasr against the low Fujairah scored.
Elsewhere, the sterling campaigns continued for fourth-placed Ittihad Kalba and fifth-placed Bani Yas. Swiss playmaker Davide Mariani starred in the former with an assist and a goal in a 2-1 win over Khor Fakkan that ended with both teams to 10 men, while Argentinian midfielders Nicolas Gimenez and Gaston Suarez made it 3-0 the latter inspired humiliation of the lowest hatta.
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PLAYER OF THE WEEK
A familiar face caused familiar pain for a former employer – and achieved a familiar result for his current wage master.
Welliton only returned to Sharjah in September – for whom the joy of the title in 2018/19 was the high point of three outstanding years of service – when Jonathas suffered a serious knee injury on the eve of the resumption of the group stage of the 2020 AFC Champions League. However, this is a special connection between the player and the club.
A devious move opened the standings against Wasl, a team on which he met nine times in 14 shortened appearances in a shortened 2019/20 year before scoring 95 pointsth-minute header settled it for the king. That’s now 12 goals in his last 14 run-outs for Welliton, while four hits after the 85-minute mark by tireless Sharjah added six points to their pacemaker record.
GOAL OF THE WEEK
Ali Mabkhout (Al Jazira)
A goalscorer legend continues to add to its rich history.
Another classic that complements the UAE record breaker’s 148-goal record – just 18 behind Al Wasl icon Fahad Khamees – faced Wahda. Excellent view of midfield Abdullah Ramadan’s scorching pass ball made its way through visiting defense.
Mabkhout held the ball at a fast pace, took a series of Ronaldo-esque steps on international colleague Mohammed Al Shamsi and shot into an open goal. Elite.
COACH OF THE WEEK
Jorge Da Silva (Ittihad Kalba)
Miracles continue to be worked on the east coast of the UAE by a Uruguayan veteran.
An intense win against 11thThe placed Khor Fakkan was secured by the fourth goal by Togo striker Peniel Mlapa in eight AGL run-outs and by Shabab Al Ahli’s own Mariani.
That’s now four wins out of five games. These stellar results have put this former yo-yo club on track to surpass its all-time best of 11th during the professional era.
AL AINS SEASON OF DISCLAIMER
The newly installed sports director David Platt faces a hectic winter.
The Englishman – not to be confused with his famous namesake – was given the daunting task of turning his fortune in the most decorated club in the UAE. The truth is, it’s hard to know where to start after the worst start to the season in 13 years after the first five weeks of the game.
In Thursday’s stalemate with Ajman, Al Ain slipped to sixth place behind Kalba and Bani Yas.
Only five teams have scored fewer than their 13 goals, although a deviation from their expected goals (18.26) of more than five shows the team’s inefficiency. They also have the third worst defense in the top half with 10 let in.
The division’s second-highest possession of 62.2 percent couldn’t protect them from these problems.
The Kazakh skipper Bauyrzhan Islamkhan cannot be reached according to alleged problems with the AFC Al Bayanand the unconvincing Angola striker Wilson Eduardo has scored twice in 12 run-outs. However, a successful overseas quartet operation during the notoriously difficult mid-season market is only a starting point.
In competitions where the number of expats is limited, the remaining strength will be found in the local contingent. Unfortunately for Al Ain, they appear in the middle of an alarming descent in the area.
A change of guard from the generation of Omar Abdulrahman, Ismail Ahmed and Mohanad Salem to the current generation was fraught with problems. Rayan Yaslam’s recurring fitness problems were really unfortunate, but Salem Abdullah and Saeed Jumaa don’t seem endowed with the same skills.
Raids in the notoriously tricky and complex domestic scene remain essential.
This without taking into account the long-term profitability of trainer Pedro Emanuel and the question of how a winning mentality can be rebuilt after the fast descents after the doubles of 2017/18.
The boss by (nick) name, not by nature.
Nine results of the week
Al Ain 0-0 Ajman
Al Nasr 3-2 Fujairah
Sharjah 2-1 Al Wasl
Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club 0-0 Al Dhafra
Hatta 0-3 Bani Yas
Khor Fakkan 1-2 Ittihad Kalba
Al Jazira 2-0 Al Wahda
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