Thursday’s pulsating summit meeting saw the Boss race into a two-goal lead, before Hungary winger Balazs Dzsudzsak’s pair of long-range drives levelled things up at 2-2. But the UAE’s most-decorated club remained unflustered as they chase a first trophy since
August 2015, a quartet of further strikes following against bedraggled opponents who eventually finished with nine men.
A four-point lead with four games left is significant. Yet, 34-year-old Ahmed knows huge hurdles are left to clear.
“Al Wahda is a great team and we respect this club and its fans,” said the three-time AGL champion.
“Losses in football are always coming, regardless of the outcome of this confrontation. But the most important thing for us was to get the three points and win.
“It is only an important step along the way on our challenge to compete for the title and we still have four matches left. Each one will be more important than the other, so I demand the fans provide greater support in the coming stages.”
Priorities for Zoran Mamic’s men now immediately switch to bringing life into their 2018 AFC Champions League-campaign. Both matches in Group D have been drawn thus far, meaning victory is a must when ex-coach Winfried Schafer brings Iran’s Esteghlal to Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on Tuesday.
“Winning and losing is normal in the football world,” said Egypt midfielder Hussein El Shahat, who produced a fine assist for Marcus Berg’s opener versus Wahda and later scored a seventh league goal of a productive mid-season loan from Misr lel-Makkasa.
“We lost in the 17th round to Sharjah and we returned in the last round against Al Wahda, but the most important thing is to always win the three points.
“The fans in the stands gave the players a strong motivation on the pitch to deliver the best performance and I want to give a few words of thanks to the fans of the club.
“The match against Al Wahda is over for us and we are thinking only about facing Esteghlal.”
Here are our star performers:
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Marcelo Cirino (Al Nasr)
Most players would have cracked under the pressure. But the Brazilian forward kept his cool twice from the penalty spot to seal the spoils from yet another heated Bur Dubai-derby versus Al Wasl.
Cirino has proven an excellent pick-up on loan from Flamengo, striking eight times in 15 top-flight run-outs from out wide. His most-recent pair will live long in the memory of the Nasr faithful.
GOAL OF THE WEEK
Marcus Berg (Al Ain)
After a tense opening to this summit meeting between bitter Abu Dhabi rivals, a goal of supreme quality was conjured by champions-elect Al Ain.
Omar Abdulrahman set if off out wide in style with some nonchalant step-overs and a back-heeled flick, with the ball soon making its way to Egypt playmaker Hussein El Shahat. A pass of pure precision then sent Berg straight through the middle and he provided a killer finish.
COACH OF THE WEEK
Mahdi Ali (Shabab Al Ahli)
A return to club management has not been easy going for Ali – not by a long stretch.
The ex-UAE boss finally had a night to savour on Wednesday.
Champions Al Jazira appeared set to inflict a fourth top-flight defeat of his tenure, but his players – many of whom he nurtured through various Whites set-ups – finally produced for him. Shabab Al Ahli swarmed over Jazira, Saeed Jassem and Mohammed Marzooq winning it at the death.
What’s happening at the bottom?
With only four games left of the season, it’ll take some implosion from here for Al Ain to not claim a first AGL title since 2014/15.
In contrast, it is a mystery what’s going to happen in the relegation battle – and that isn’t just because three teams are separated by one point. There has still been no official decision by the UAE Football Association about whether 2018/19 will feature 12 or 14 teams.
Will the usual two go down, or will there be a repeat of 2012/13’s play-offs? The lack of clarity is cruel.
ALL ON THE LINE
First versus second with one point separating them, a tempestuous Abu Dhabi rivalry and many of the competition’s finest footballers – this is a fixture to cherish.
Hosts Al Ain are long-term pacesetters with five games left. But they face the pressure of ending an uncharacteristic trophy drought stretching back to August 2015’s Arabian Gulf Super Cup and suffered a shock first league defeat this term last weekend.
For second-placed Wahda, successive seasons have brought the Arabian Gulf Cup and President’s Cup – can they make the last step?
A shootout between two of the AGL’s elite gunslingers could define this cataclysmic clash.
Both Al Ain’s 3-1 reversal at Sharjah and Wahda’s disappointing goalless draw with Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club can be traced back to problems up top.
A heavy cold limited 12-goal Sweden No9 Marcus Berg’s involvement on Saturday, while Sebastian Tagliabue – he of 103 strikes for the Clarets – was banned a day prior.
These strikers are proven deadshots. Who best supplies their ammunition should prevail.
AMOORY’S MOMENT TO SHINE
Now would be an apposite time for 2016 AFC Player of the Year Omar Abdulrahman to deliver a performance worthy of his lofty reputation.
Amoory, 26, has been left to chase his best form all term. He began 2017/18 with a nagging injury, was controversially banned domestically in January for infractions on UAE duty and has seen Egypt new boy Hussein El Shahat chip away at his authority.
His glorious talent remains unquestioned. Belatedly making the most of it is key for the Boss.