Al Ain suffer first AGL loss as they go down 3-1 to Sharjah

Denzil Pinto 24/02/2018
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Not good enough: Omar Abdulrahman (left) scored Al Ain's equaliser from the penalty spot.

Al Ain were unable to extend their lead at the top as they were condemned to their first Arabian Gulf League defeat of the season with a 3-1 loss to Sharjah last night.

The Boss went into the match knowing a win would see them open a four-point gap over title rivals and second-placed Al Wahda following the Clarets’ stalemate to Shabab Al Ahli on Friday.

But they were beaten by a Sharjah side in a match that saw three goals come from the penalty spot at the Khalid bin Mohammed Stadium.

The King made a bright start and took an early lead when Vander Vieira was brought down inside the box by Ismail Ahmed. The Brazilian made no mistake from the penalty spot, firing home for his fifth league goal of the season.

Their lead however, lasted only 10 minutes as Al Ain equalised through Omar Abdulrahman’s effort. After Hassan Saleh tripped Hussein El Shahat inside the box, ‘Amoory’ powered the ball into the back of the net.

Al Ain began to find their rhythm and Mohamed Abdulrahman was unlucky to see his 35-yard shot go agonisingly wide.

With the scores level at half-time, the match was still in the balance, but despite Al Ain’s possession they were unable to take their chances and were soon made to pay.

In the 65th minute, the referee awarded the third penalty of the night when Saif Rashid won the penalty after being fouled by visiting goalkeeper Khalid Eisa. That saw Vieira double his tally for the evening with a 2-1 lead.

Zoran Mamic’s side continued to press forward for the leveler and Caio had a glorious opportunity when put through one-on-one.

However, the Brazilian was wasteful, bizarrely missing from the six-yard box.

The visitors’ task of getting back into the game got even more difficult three minutes from time when Luiz Marcelo got his first league goal of the season.

After a long pass from goalkeeper Adel Al Hosani was nodded by Yousif Saeed, Welliton Soares outpaced his marker to square for for Marcelo who slotted home Sharjah’s third goal of the season.

The result means Al Ain’s lead at the top is reduced to just one point ahead of Al Wahda. The two sides will meet in their next match at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on Thursday.

For Sharjah, they overtake Ajman and Shabab Al Ahli into sixth place with 22 points.

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Arabian Gulf League could be gatecrashed by ambitious City Football Club

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City Football Club training is undertaken by experienced professionals (CFC).

Terry Kidd and his new City Football Club do not do things by halves.

Only launched last September, they hold ambitious plans to be Dubai’s lead academy and make the seismic step of turning professional within just 12 months – eventually becoming the first expatriate outfit to gain a historic place in the Arabian Gulf League.

This latter sphere has been the sole preserve of Emiratis since Al Nasr was founded back in 1945. But within a mood of merged teams, such as last May’s tumultuous amalgamation of Al Ahli, Al Shabab and Dubai CSC to form Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club, the financial benefits of the untapped foreigners market appears alluring.

“That is the long-term goal,” says director of football and head coach Kidd, an ex-professional footballer with Aberdeen who is a 12-year veteran of the UAE football scene.

“Is it attainable in a 12-month cycle?

“I think we have to be realistic and respect where football is at in the UAE. There is a lot going on right now, with some pro clubs merging.

“We obviously have to meet the criteria, which will be extensive.

“Financially, we’d have to advance the funding to ensure we can create an infrastructure to coach the players for the next level and create an environment where they can compete at professional level, locally.

“That is the objective. We don’t want to fall into the pit where we become just another private, expat academy.”

CFC’s mandate is to unearth the next generation of professional footballers via elite training by FIFA-approved practitioners. Highly qualified UEFA ‘A’ and ‘B’-licensed coaches have been recruited from within the UAE and British football.

More than 350 kids have already come through trials. In total, the academy caters for boys and girls from the ages of four to 18.

Kidd is convinced his high-performance program will provide the gateway for the most-promising players to secure berths at professional clubs in Europe or spots in the United States’ collegiate system.

He said: “We kicked off in September, so we are still very young. The plan, vision and philosophy for the club is creating an elite environment that provides an elite level of coaching.

“The core focus is on high performance. We are expecting our players to train more and get more out of the programme, meaning it is not one-dimensional.

“We look at sports science and we go through the analytic side, giving players ownership.

“The end result is sending them to professional outfits in the United Kingdom, or even a collegiate direction in the United States. I have been taking kids to top Division 1, 2 and 3 schools.”

The goal of joining the AGL remains an eye-catching aspect of this plan. Scope for improvement is obvious, sparsely attended fixtures and increased financial losses showing change is required.

Overtures to the UAE Football Association by CFC have been met with a positive response.

“Yes, we have spoken to them,” says Kidd. “There is encouragement about new teams, but you have to start at the grassroots – let us get our little pyramid built, before we try to build an empire.”

Trials are offered per inquiry. Each child will be profiled, evaluated and assessed, before being placed in the most-apt band.

Charges are paid per term, with a scholarship scheme in place. Training takes place at various locations across Dubai.

For more information, visit www.dubaicityfc.com.

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Shabab Al Ahli boss Mahdi plans to win battle of attrition versus Al Wahda in Arabian Gulf League

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Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club boss Mahdi Ali before the Arabian Gulf League game at Al Wahda.

Shabab Al Ahli Dubai coach Mahdi Ali is hopeful his troops can win a battle of attrition against Al Wahda in the Arabian Gulf League.

Friday’s hosts at Zayed Sports City come into the match on the back of a draining midweek 3-2 loss to Qatar’s Al Duhail in the 2018 AFC Champions League. This competition has added to their commitments as challengers in the top flight and Arabian Gulf Cup – with both teams also set to meet in next month’s semi-finals.

“We hope to exploit the fatigue that our opponents will have accumulated as a result of the pressure matches in different tournaments,” said Ali, whose side sit a distant sixth

Meanwhile, Al Dhafra boss Gjoko Hadzievski has declared he wants to see proactive players take control of their destiny against Al Nasr.

The Western Knights won for the first time since September last-time out, versus Dibba Al Fujairah.

“The game against Al Nasr is so important to us,” said Hadzievski.

“The players must provide a strong reaction and not wait for the opponent’s reaction.”

Friday’s final game sees champions Al Jazira welcome lowly Hatta.

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