Bougherra interested in UAE move

Barnaby Read 28/04/2014
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Gulf is where the heart is: Bougherra’s deal with Lekhwiya ends this season.

Algeria centre-back Madjid Bougherra has confirmed that he would be interested in a move to the Arabian Gulf League this summer when his contract at Qatari side Lekhwiya runs out.

Bougherra is looking for a new adventure having spent the last three years with the Qatar Stars League champions and admitted that UAE clubs have already registered interest in his services.

Speaking to Sport360° at an adidas photoshoot in Dubai, the former Rangers man expressed his desire to remain in the Middle East.

“I’ve had a nice three years [in Qatar] and now my contract is finished. I am thinking about which challenge I am going to take, but I think my favourite direction is to stay in the Gulf,” said Bougherra. “

Yes, why not [play in the AGL]. Right now I have some opportunities in Qatar, Saudi [Arabia] and the UAE. We’ll see.”

Asked whether he had already received offers from AGL clubs, Bougherra replied: “Not yet. I have had some interest but I don’t want to push too much yet. I have told my agent I want to finish my season with Lekhwiya first, then go to the World Cup and after that we will see.”

As for Bougherra’s potential destination were he to move to the UAE, he made it clear that only a team fighting for honours would interest him, having won five league titles in the last six years with both Rangers (3) and Lekhwiya (2).

“I am going to take my time and take a good challenge as I want to play for titles, I don’t want to play for nothing as I am a competitor.”

The 31-year-old’s desire to win trophies and the wage that he can command in his next contract mean that any potential transfer to the UAE is fairly limited.

Al Ahli have run riot over the course of the past year but their squad is settled and in Hugo Viana, Ciel and Grafite they have some of the best foreign players in the league.

Walter Zenga’s Al Jazira side will be looking to build on a good 2013- 14 season next time around and are fairly light on the ground at the back so may be an option.

Hyung Min Chin also seems to be heading out of the club, which would open up a slot among Jazira’s foreign quota.

Garden City outfit Al Ain will also be desperate to return to the top of the AGL and will have the financial muscle to not only tempt Bougherra but blow many of their rivals out of the water.

With Alex Brosque and Mirel Radoi on their way out of Al Ain, they will be in the market for replacements and be best placed to make a move.

Bougherra also faced Al Ain with his Lekhwiya side in the Champions League group stages, showing them who’s Boss by winning both fixtures, including a 5-0 demolition in Qatar.

During these games Bougherra was impressed by Al Ain’s fans, an association that may bode well for both parties come the end of the season.

“In the Emirates they also have more fans than Qatar. When you go to the stadium they have more passion, but the level I feel is the same.”

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Al Shabab 1-1 Al Ahli: ‘Deira Derby’ ends all square

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Even contest: Al Ahli (red) and Al Shabab (green) are the AGL's top two sides.

Al Shabab salvaged a point from their derby clash with their Dubai neighbours and league champions Al Ahli to hold on to their second spot in the standings with a 1-1 draw at the Maktoum bin Rashid Stadium Sunday night.

Titled the “Deira Derby” between two clubs that share the same street address, the match was expected to be a thriller despite Ahli having already wrapped up the Arabian Gulf League title a fortnight ago.

A second half penalty from Shabab’s Carlos Villanueva cancelled Ahmed Khalil’s early goal, and the hosts are now one point clear of third-placed Al Wahda, who beat Al Dhafra 3-1, with two weeks of play remaining.

“There isn’t a coach who would be satisfied with second place, everyone wants to be top, so you can imagine if we finish in third… it would be disappointing but we’ll do our best,” said Shabab coach Marcos Paqueta.

“We still have two more games and we’ll stay focused and do our best to take six points and hold on to second place.”

Khalil took everyone by surprise when he scored in the third minute. The UAE international combined with Walid Abbas for a smooth one-two down the left before dribbling confidently into the box, his shot finding the far corner of the net.

Four minutes later, Ciel showcased his own impressive skills when he danced around the Shabab defence before unleashing a bullet that bounced off the ground and forced a shaky block from ‘keeper Ismail Juma. Grafite missed the follow inches away from the goal line.

Grafite again could have doubled the lead for the visitors in the 16th minute as he sprinted down the right side, beating the defence to come one-on-one with Juma but he hesitantly chose to pass rather than shoot, and the ball was cleared instead.

The hosts’ first chance came in the 18th minute when Dawood Ali crossed over to Villanueva, who was on target but Ahli ‘keeper Saif Yousif was there for the block.

Shabab started strong in the second half and Adeilson earned them a penalty seven minutes in when he was challenged by Ahli’s Thamer Mohammed in the area, and Villanueva brilliantly scored the equaliser from the spot with a left-footed beauty that ripped through the upper right corner of the net.

The hosts upped their possession percentage but were unable to complete a comeback, settling for a draw.

Despite the dip in form in the second half, assistant coach Catalin Raducan insists a draw with Shabab is a satisfying result.

“I think the result is a fair result,” said Raducan. “We played against the second team in their home and it’s 1-1, I think in this moment there was nothing more we could have done. We played 14 games in 40 days, it’s not an excuse, it’s a fact. In this moment to draw with Shabab in my opinion is a good result.”

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Al Wahda remain on course for top four

27/04/2014
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On the rise: Al Wahda have their top-four destiny in their hands.

Sebastian Tagliabue's brace continued his remarkable scoring spree as Al Wahda boosted their Asian Champions League aspirations with a come-from-behind 3-1 win at Al Dhafra, in a hot-tempered fixture featuring three red cards.

The Argentine has now registered a sensational 10 goals in four Arabian Gulf League matches, after his pair and an unlikely Hussain Fadel effort at Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Stadium saw the capital side move level on points with fourth-placed Sharjah with a game in hand.

A victory in the extra fixture would move Wahda up to third, one point above Al Jazira.

Referee Fahad Al Kassar Banihammad played a prominent role, awarding one penalty apiece and issuing three cards – one for Wahda and two for the hosts.

Makhete Diop had put Dhafra ahead from the spot with his 21st AGL goal of a prolific campaign, but his team were then outclassed by their red-hot opponents.

With both Al Sharjah and Al Shabab dropping points, and the bottom two to come in their final league fixtures, Wahda are well on course for a spot in the continent's elite club competition next season.

Conversely, the result all but ended Dhafra's hopes of making the ACL.

A spicy first half had seen the sides share two red cards and two penalties, with Dhafra's Bandar Al Ahbabi and Wahda's Adel Abdulla the centre of the action.

Dhafra striker Diop struck after Abdulla was harshly adjudged to have handled Al Ahbabi's cross. The main protagonists were involved again 10 minutes from half-time, when the latter felled Abdulla in the box to allow the prolific Sebastian Tagliabue to score from the spot.

Minutes later, with tempers at boiling point, Abdulla and Al Ahbabi clashed on the touchline with referee Fahad Al Kassab Banihammad having no choice but to dismiss both players.

Wahda excelled in the open spaces in the second, with playmakers Ismaeil Matar and Damian Rodrigo DIaz prominent throughout.

Jose Peseiro's side went ahead soon after the break when captain Fadel struck just his second AGL goal of the campaign after following in a Eisa Ahmed flick on from a corner.

The fiery goal exploded once more when Tagliabue tapped in after unselfish play from DIaz. Dhafra screamed that play should have been stopped with Diop prone on the floor, with Hasan Al Hammadi receiving his marching orders for dissent.

Wahda's numerical advantage saw them ease through the final stages, with the full-time whistle granting them a hard-earned fourth successive victory to move ACL entry within their grasp.

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