Al Nasr boss Ivan Jovanovic happy to continue low-key recruitment

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Content: Jovanovic.

Boss Ivan Jovanovic is convinced Al Nasr do not need to splash the cash like their Arabian Gulf League rivals to claim the title.

The Blue Wave have been quiet during the January transfer window, Wednesday’s low-key recruitment of Bani Yas pair Massoud Suleiman and Ahmed Khamis their only forays into the market thus far.

In contrast, second-placed Al Ahli have made the eye-catching capture of UAE defensive midfielder Khamis Esmail and champions Al Ain have purchased J League marksman Douglas and Colombian flyer Danilo Asprilla.

Nasr are firmly in the hunt for the trophy in third ahead of Friday’s visit of Al Dhafra and Jovanovic declared he did not need any superstar additions to give them a boost.

He said: “Of course, every team programmes transfers for themselves. What interests me is as a team, how we can cover the postions we need so we can be better in the second part of the league.

“I believe we are a good team. One thing for me as a coach is I enjoy my job here with my players.”

Meanwhile, Al Jazira boss Henk ten Cate is sure Abdulla Mousa can become one of the best central defenders in the Emirates.

Mousa, a UAE international, was the forgotten man under Abel Braga. He was, however, given a starring role in the centre of defence in Ten Cate’s first match, a 2-2 draw with Al Wasl last Friday, and the Dutchman believes he is getting stronger as a player.

“Abdulla is improving in his position a lot,” said Ten Cate, ahead of tomorrow’s clash against Sharjah. “After such a long time not playing or training, I enjoy watching him in training and he’s getting better. He’s not 100 per cent but he gives everything he has.

“When he is 100 per cent, I think he will be one of the best central defenders in the country.”

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Moussa Sow hat-trick inspires Al Ahli comeback to reach final

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His second-half hat-trick secured a pulsating victory at 10-man Al Shabab and sent his team through to April 1’s Arabian Gulf Cup final against Al Wahda.

Moody body language and just seven goals in 17 appearances had previously been exhibited in the UAE. At Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium, he turned into predator extraordinaire.

“We were able to create chances from counter-attacks but could not control the game,” Red Knights boss Cosmin Olaroiu said. “Overall, what is import is we won and made the final – this is very important for us.

“Moussa Sow played a very good game, but it is about the collective.”

The loss continues a disappointing 2015-16 for Shabab after last season’s GCC Club Cup success and third-placed, Arabian Gulf League-finish. In the aftermath, boss Caio Junior looked immediately to next month’s continental assignment.

He said: “It is very difficult to lose this game when my team played very well. Tactically, we were perfect and I am happy with them as I thought we deserved to go through into the final.

“This competition is gone but we have the AFC Champions League and President’s Cup.”

Watched on from the substitutes’ bench by new signing Khamis Esmail, who made his debut at the death, Ahli were initially unable to convert their superior top-flight form into dominance.

Sow’s bicycle kick went narrowly over, before lively Moldova forward Henrique Luvannor forced a fine low save from Majed Nasser at the other end.

The cagey match finally burst into life within a minute of the restart as the Hawks took the lead in beautiful fashion.

Chile playmaker Carlos Villanueva’s audacious back heel on the edge of the penalty area sent Brazil striker Jo clear to side foot in his eighth AG Cup goal since his July switch from Atletico Mineiro.

Sow began to steal the show on 71 minutes. UAE left-back Walid Abbas – one of three ex-Shabab players in Ahli’s XI – flicked on to the back post and the ex-Fenerbahce star was there to nod in on the line.

The Senegal international was involved again three minutes later as he was crunched on the touchline by Hawks right-back Mohammed Qassim, who received a second yellow card.

A shirt pull from Sow – who else? –  saw a penalty awarded for the hosts, but Luvannor was denied by an excellent low stop from Nasser.

More pain followed for the forward. He was robbed of the ball within his own half, sparking a second for Sow as substitute Ahmed Khalil’s volley trickled towards him from Salem Abdulla’s fingertips to tap in.

A second-successive AG Cup semi-final loss seemed guaranteed as the ex-Lille man earned the match ball, rounding the goalkeeper from Brazil playmaker Everton Ribeiro’s ingenious through ball.

Shabab’s resolve was on show as Azizbek Haydarov struck from the penalty spot after his pass caused Jo to be felled by Nasser.

But with a man down, no further pressure could be exerted. Sow had finally shown his worth.

Ahli will now play Al Wahda in the final after they earlier overcame Al Wasl 2-1 thanks to goals from Sebastian Tagliabue and Jorge Valdivia. Fabio Lima pulled one back from the penalty spot late on, but it was not enough for the hosts.

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Khamis Esmail makes groundbreaking move between rival Arabian Gulf League giants

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Star signing Khamis Esmail has admitted he was shocked when Al Jazira sanctioned his groundbreaking move to fellow Arabian Gulf League giants Al Ahli.

Esmail, 26, has inked a three-and-a-half-year deal after a bid worth up to Dh60 million was accepted on Monday. His high-profile switch is a rarity within UAE football, where the trading of elite domestic talent seldom occurs between the two clubs involved or fellow heavyweights Al Ain.

Speaking at his unveiling at Rashid Stadium yesterday, the 33-times-capped defensive midfielder revealed he had not expected to make such a historic transfer.

He said: “Everybody was surprised about this. I was one of the key players in the team.

“But they have some sort of plans for the future. Maybe this thing was the best for the club and the player.

“This is how professionalism works.”

Esmail speaks to the media after his ground-breaking move.

Esmail speaks to the media after his ground-breaking move.

He added: “Al Ahli are a big club. I stayed five years with Al Jazira and they were beautiful years.

“I hope to help Al Ahli and give my best to this club. They did everything they could to move me here, so I want to pay back this with everything I can.”

Esmail made 80 top-flight appearances for the Pride of Abu Dhabi since a January 2011 move from Emirates Club. His final months at the club were soared by a disagreement with a former agent and ongoing concerns about a lingering knee problem.

He has swapped an underperforming club languishing in 10th for one who are second, three points behind champions Al Ain. A fight to get into the starting XI ahead of UAE colleagues Habib Fardan and Majed Hassan awaits, but the challenge is not one Esmail fears.

He said: “When I moved from Emirates Club to Al Jazira, there were a lot of superstars in the team. But I was able to learn a lot from them.

“If there is not competition, then you will not see improvement in the performance from the players. I think Al Ahli have a lot of good quality players.

“I think I need to do my best and prove my skills to the team. This will help put Al Ahli on the top at the end.”

Ahli CEO Ahmed Khalifa was present at the unveiling and he hoped Esmail’s arrival would inspire a push to reclaim the AGL crown.

He said: “From first to second place is a team effort, not just about one important player. But I think Khamis will add a lot of value to the team.

“He is one of the best players in the UAE and we think he can perform well.

“To bring the team from second to first, we need a lot of work and effort. It has to be from everybody to achieve the trophy at the end.

“We also think about good players who will help us hit our targets.”

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