Round 19 in the Arabian Gulf League featured standout performances across the competition.
Here are the stars who shone brightest:
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Omar Abdulrahman (Al Ain)
Amoory’s curious season took a turn for the better with an exhibition of set-piece mastery. Yet more doubts surrounded UAE football’s crown prince after his midweek hooking by seething national coach Alberto Zaccheroni. These were emphatically answered in the 3-2 win at Al Jazira. A penalty was calmly dispatched minutes after Caio’s miss, while the free-kick that left UAE No1 Ali Khaseif rooted exhibited his pure technical acumen.
GOAL OF THE WEEK
Walid Abbas (Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club)
There is still life in the old warhorse. Abbas defied his younger colleagues and competitors, storming into the penalty box from left-back in the 89th minute of a tense meeting at Dibba Al Fujairah. His turn of speed and slight of feet granted him space to lash a first top-flight goal of the season into the bottom corner. This late winner capped of a fine few days. The 60-cap veteran is back in the UAE squad after he was snubbed for the Gulf Cup.
COACH OF THE WEEK
Abdulaziz Al Anbari (Sharjah)
The future of UAE coaching is in safe hands. Al Anbari followed the midweek signing of a two-year contract extension with a narrow 1-0 win against promoted Ajman, earned courtesy of Whites squad member Al Hasan Saleh’s effort. This result further ensconced the King in mid-table, exactly the job the club stalwart was hired to do. They had no victories when the perennial caretaker got a permanent shot in October. That figure now stands at seven.
1️⃣) UAE coach Alberto Zaccheroni behind shock call to drop star duo Omar Abdulrahman & Ali Mabkhout— Matt Monaghan (@mattmonaghan360) March 15, 2018
2️⃣) Players had expected to feature, now domestic bans from Gulf Cup are servedhttps://t.co/xeFVQnpViu pic.twitter.com/vKCIiXluLA
CHEETAHS LOSING THEIR STRIPES ISN’T ARRUABARRENA’S FAULT
It’s been a chastening few months for Al Wasl. Reality has bitten the Cheetahs hard. A side set for an improvement on last term’s surprise runners-up spot before the winter break made it five league games without a win, thanks to Saturday’s painful 2-1 loss at struggling Al Dhafra. At moments like these, coaches come in the cross hairs. Yet Rodolfo Arruabarrena is only guilty of inflating expectations. Wasl’s squad is perilously thin and they were beaten to summer targets by the likes of Sharjah. It’s a miracle he got them this far.
Another dominant display saw The Boss restore the four-point advantage secured with victory in the preceding summit meeting against Al Wahda. 2016 AFC Player of the Year Omar Abdulrahman struck two set-pieces days after his UAE snub and summer buy Marcus Berg moved onto 20 goals as a 3-2 victory was gained at last season’s sinking champions, for whom Brazilian forward Romarinho and another high-profile UAE exile in Ali Mabkhout notched consolations.
Saturday’s result means a maximum six points are required from their remaining three fixtures for the nation’s most-decorated club to secure a first top-flight crown since 2014/15 – and 13th overall. No matter this commanding position headed into the international break, Mamic is taking nothing for granted.
He said: “We can say that the team has taken a good step in the challenge of competing for the title, but we have to be careful and move forward with the intelligence required because we have three rounds left with nine points. Each game will be more important than the previous.
“We are also facing very important challenges in the AFC Champions League and the President’s Cup. Indeed, the victory over Al Jazira has enabled us to get only three points.
“We have not been awarded the league title.”
A negative was the injury suffered by outstanding January loanee Hussein El Shahat. Mamic could offer no answer to whether the midfielder would be fit enough to earn a first full cap for World Cup 2018 qualifiers Egypt in the coming weeks.
He said: “The player will be subjected to magnetic radiation after a strong kick in the ankle during the day and we await medical reports to determine the size of the injury.”
Dibba Al Fujairah are next welcomed to Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on April 6. The lowly Fishermen inflicted a shock 2-1 defeat in this fixture last February, making Mamic’s second game in charge a painful one following his controversial defection from Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr.
“Our game in the next round is more difficult, despite the difference between Al Jazira and Dibba Al Fujairah,” the ex-Croatia international said.
“I remember last season when I took charge of the team. The first loss with Al Ain was Dibba at home, and among our fans, 2-1.
“At home, it was one of our worst games of the season.”
Waylaid Wanderley’s cursed spell at Al Nasr was officially brought to a premature end on Wednesday after a sorry one-and-a-half-season stint that has included a dodgy passport saga, succession of serious injuries and just seven Arabian Gulf League appearances.
Wanderley, 29, was highly coveted when the Blue Wave snapped him up on a three-year deal from Sharjah in July 2016. But his travails saw a “mutual termination” announced following only 14 games and seven goals in all competitions.
The Brazilian striker has not featured since January 17’s penalty-shootout victory against Dibba Al Fujairah in the President’s Cup.
Fake Indonesian documents used to debut in August 2016’s AFC Champions League quarter-finals at Qatar’s El Jaish saw a 60-day ban imposed. He’s since been consistently sidelined by knocks.
His on-form ex-club play second-bottom Hatta on Friday. Elsewhere, Al Wahda must put pressure on leaders Al Ain by beating Emirates Club and Dibba need a result when Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club visit.