Al Wahda can cherish the season’s first silverware.
A third Year of Zayed Arabian Gulf Super Cup – much delayed and rearranged – fell into their hands. An awful pass from Al Jazira left-back Salim Rashid led to Moroccan forward Mourad Batna’s early opener, UAE goalkeeper Ali Khaseif’s sloppy clearance and subsequent felling of veteran Ismail Matar allowing Hungary star Balazs Dzsudzsak to riotously lash home a penalty just before the hour mark.
On balance, the President’s Cup holders just about deserved to see off their Arabian Gulf League-winning nemesis from Abu Dhabi. This success inside a boisterous Bani Yas Stadium – electrified by more than 8,000 vocal fans – did not come from a contest of great entertainment.
It was a tense one in which their opponents could not repair self-inflicted wounds. A story supposedly consigned to a previous era for Henk ten Cate’s men.
Their descent from going toe-to-toe with Real Madrid in last month’s Club World Cup continues. That’s only two wins in seven subsequent matches.
In contrast, something special is building for the Clarets. They will hope this success energises a charge for further domestic glory – only two points separates them from top-flight leaders Al Ain.
After all the pageantry of the pre-match ceremony, Jazira came close to the perfect start. UAE prospect Mohamed Al Shamsi was alert to palm away a stinging drive from Brazilian forward Romarinho before 30 seconds had ticked by.
Laurentiu Reghecampf’s Wahda machine did not panic, in a clash traditionally held at season’s start.
The Romanian’s high press gained reward when Rashid passed into danger from the edge of his own box on 21 minutes. Tagliabue smelled a chance and cannoned a shot onto the base of the post with Khaseif beaten, Batna racing in to slot home a sixth goal in 19 appearances since his profitable summer switch from FUS Rabat.
The flow of this gripping match did not alter, midfield battles being won and lost with frequency.
It was left to Jazira to blink again after the interval. Khaseif chipped up a poor kick, inflicting more damage by chopping down Matar – whose shot hit the post.
Referee Sultan Abdurazzaq went back for the penalty. Dzsudzsak subsequently converted it and slid in celebration towards the ecstatic Clarets faithful.
Jazira could not be roused from this second, mortal blow. The capital is Wahda’s, for now.
Dubai club Al Nasr on Friday sacked Italian coach Cesare Prandelli amid a disappointing season, reinstating Serb Ivan Jovanovic who was previously in charge from 2013 to 2016.
“Al Nasr football company has decided to relieve Italian Cesare Prandelli from the post of technical director,” read a tweet from the club in the wake of a defeat in the President’s Cup on Wednesday.
Jovanovic, who helped the team become UAE league champions in 2015, is to succeed Prandelli, a second tweet said, accompanied by a photo of the Serbian coach.
Prandelli coached Italy to the final of Euro 2012 but left after their group-stage exit at the 2014 World Cup. He then had spells at Galatasaray and Valencia before moving to Al Nasr last year.
شركة النصر لكرة القدم تُعلن تعيين الصربي إيفان يوفانوفيتش مُديراً فنياً للفريق الأول لكرة القدم خلفاً للإيطالي تشيزاري برانديلي. pic.twitter.com/G1VuwWa3kP
— AL NASR FC (@ALNasrSC) January 19, 2018
Arabian Gulf League pacesetters Al Wasl host Al Ain on Friday in the Arabian Gulf League in what is a top of the table clash (7.45pm kick-off).
Something has got to give this weekend as both teams enter the match at Zabeel Stadium unbeaten in the league after the first 11 round of fixtures.
Indeed, only goal difference separates Rodolfo Arruabarrena’s Al Wasl side with Al Ain, with Friday’s hosts having netted just twice more this term and conceded one fewer goal.
It is all set-up to be a thriller in Dubai with Wasl striker Fabio Lima very much the man to watch given the Brazilian leads the league’s goalscoring charts this term with 12 strikes to his name.
Visitors Al Ain, who are managed by Zoran Mamic and of course can count UAE star Omar Abdulrahman among their playing XI, will need to put in a stellar showing if they are to take anything away from the fixture.
The league table below shows just how tight things are this season while our graphic illustrates how 24-year-old Lima has been arguably the man of the campaign so far.