Al Wasl in talks to sign ex-Jazira star Oliveira

Kenny Laurie 19/01/2014
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Al Wasl target: Oliveira's four-and-a-half years at Al Jazira has come to an end.

Al Wasl boss Hector Cuper has admitted that Al Jazira legend Ricardo Oliveira could be on his way to the Zabeel Stadium with either Andre Senghor or Mariano Donda leaving the club.

The Argentine, whose side lost 2-1 at home to Al Jazira on Saturday night, said the club is in negotiations with the Brazilian and that it is a “possibility” he will move from Abu Dhabi to Dubai.

While Cuper said that either Donda or Senghor – who is on loan from Bani Yas – could make way, word from within Al Wasl suggests that the latter is more likely to leave with the board believed to be keen on keeping Donda.

“Until this moment nothing is finished,” said Cuper. “We are still in negotiations. Yes, there is a possibility it will be Oliveira that joins the club.”

Oliveira, who spent four-and-a-half years at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium, was made available last week after compatriot Jucilei da Silva was brought in from Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala. During his time with the Abu Dhabi giants, Oliveira scored an impressive 81 goals in 106 appearances.

Incidentally, Jazira boss Walter Zenga further bolstered his attacking ranks with the signing of former Manchester City striker Felipe Caicedo from Lokomotiv Moscow, with ex-Valencia forward Nelson Valdez making way.

Senghor did at least put himself in the shop window with  goal against Al Jazira but his strike proved only a consolation after Hyung Min Shin and Ali Mabkhout did the damage for the Pride of Abu Dhabi.

Al Wasl were left kicking themselves after they not only missed a couple of half chances late on but also missed a penalty when the scores were 0-0.

New signing Edson Puch, for the second straight game, won a penalty after darting into the left hand side of the box. Earlier this week, Donda missed the penalty Edson won but at least knocked in the rebound.

Elsewhere, Al Ain were held to goalless draw by Ajman.

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Al Shabab win to reduce gap on Al Ahli

Kenny Laurie 18/01/2014
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Impressive: Al Shabab produced a fine display to dispatch third-placed Sharjah,

Al Shabab continue to breath down the necks of Al Ahli at the top of the Arabian Gulf League afte they confidently dispatched Sharjah 2-0.

In a potential battle for second place there was only one team in the game as Carlos Villanueva grabbed the two all-important goals in the first half.

The defeat was Sharjah's first in the league since October when they went down to Al Dhafra; a month after they lost their only other game of the league campaign to Saturday's victors Shabab.

"It feels like six points," said Shabab coach Marcos Paqueta. "We knew Sharjah were not in an ideal place with players out so we had to use this situation to our favour and we did it well. We wait for Al Jazira next which, like this, is a six point match.

"We were a little bit worried about this game especially as we played 120 minutes last time out, but we managed well with our attack against the best defences in the league."

Sharjah severely missed their burly striker Ze Carlos, who was suspended after collecting three yellow cards. While Shabab consistently got the ball to Edgar to hold the game up and distribute possession, Sharjah had no such focal point.

As accomplished a player as Fellype Gabirel is, the Brazilian was forced away from his playmaking role to lead the line and was sadly unable to repeat his usual feats.

"We know when we came here we had to play well and today we didn't," Sharjah boss Paulo Bonamigo said. "We missed a few players and we lost the game.

"Ze Carlos knows his importance to the team. He is a focus in attack. It is not Fellype's position. it's not the same, we have to absorb this loss and think about our game against Ajman.

"But it wasn't why we lost the match. Shabab always play at a high pace and we prepared for that. They started so fast and we did not mark well and gave them space to play.

"We didn't play to our level, keeping possession, playing down the wings and they were simply better."

While others around Shabab spend their way to contention, the Eagles quietly get on with their business, trading on good coaching and cohesion for their points – a tactic that has already made them the best of the rest in the UAE.

In the first half they attacked in almost unbroken perpetuity, playing with real belief and purpose while occasionally pulling out passages of superb play.

Both of their first half goals exhibited the quick thinking and economical work the team put in. On the face of it, Villanueva's opener was a piece of individual skill, a fine effort struck across the goalkeeper from 20 yards.

But in truth the goal came from sound principles. Dawoosh Ali dispossessed Salem Khamis 30 yards from goal before moving the ball swiftly to Edgar.

The Brazilian quickly moved the ball onto Villanueva who did the rest. While the first was born of pressing, the other was cohesion and quick thinking.

As he did all game, Edgar held the ball up superbly waiting for a willing runner before finding one in Villanueva. The Chilean danced past one, nutmegged another before sliding the ball past the onrushing keeper from 12 yards.

Sharjah were left reeling, willing but not able, weakened by Ze Carlos' absence and made further so by Kim Jung Woo's first half injury.

Despite their second-fiddle status, Sharjah are still a well-coached outfit with pride and motivation. They did everything they could to force Shabab back and create phases of domination.

Occasionnally they roused their strong travelling fans but mostly they were stuck 30 yards from goal hitting a green wall without their Brazilian battering ram.

A Mauricio Ramos header wide from a corner was really all they had to show for their efforts,

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Backing Zenga in the transfer market proves Al Jazira’s ambition

Kenny Laurie 18/01/2014
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On the up: "Walter Zenga has already changed the fortunes of the side."

Say what you like about Al Jazira, but it can’t be denied they are full of ambition.

After bringing quality reinforcements in pre-season in the shape of Abdelaziz Barrada and Nelson Valdez, they have now disposed of the latter, replacing him with former Manchester City striker Felipe Caicedo.

Recently-appointed boss Walter Zenga has already changed the fortunes of the side and what was a team lacking energy and purpose is now looking a threat.

To finish the makeover, Al Jazira made the surprising move of replacing club captain Ricardo Oliveira with compatriot Jucilei Da Silva, a player who has two Brazil caps.

The club now feel they have in place a team that can challenge for trophies.

On top of their abundant foreign talent and experienced coach, they have a wealth of local talent in UAE stars Ali Khaseif, Khamis Ismail and Ali Mabkhout.

But how do you frame what the club have done? Is it a classic football knee-jerk move, sacking a manager (Luis Milla went in October), instigating an overhaul with the season at the halfway mark?

Or is it more a case of backing their new coach and giving him the money to bring his own choices in?

It has been an open secret that Zenga was never happy with Valdez leading his line. The Paraguayan was considered injury-prone, a fair charge and a tag that has stalked a player that has failed to live to up to his promise.

And the club have put their money where their mouth is in giving their boss sufficient funds to change around his team.

Jucilei should be a serious addition alongside Barrada and Ismail in midfield while Caicedo has the pedigree and talent to be a perfect foil for the goal-hungry Mabkhout.

The changes may seem drastic but they are logical. Milla’s tenure in charge was shambolic and needed to be put out of its misery while bringing in Zenga – who twice guided Al Nasr to the AFC Champions League – was a pleasant surprise and preferable to another expensive mercenary.

Valdez missed more games than he played and wasn’t exactly Gerd Muller when he did. Oliveira’s move was surprising but mitigated by the quality of his replacement.

Evolution is generally preferred but sometimes a revolution is required. Al Jazira’s moves were bold but they are club that aren’t happy to make up the numbers.

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