Former UAE Olympic defender Ali Al Ameri makes shock switch to England minnows Blyth AFC

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Ali Al Ameri (l) in action for Bani Yas in 2016/17 (PLC).

Arabian Gulf League outcast and UAE London 2012 Olympics centre-back Ali Al Ameri has surprisingly found a new home in the 10th tier of English football at Blyth AFC.

Al Ameri, 29, had not featured in any of Bani Yas’ games this term after their relegation to First Division League in 2016/17. He last featured in March 2017’s 6-2 thrashing by Al Wahda in the top flight.

The ex-Al Jazira and Al Nasr player officially completed a six-month deal without salary on March 31 after spending several weeks training at the side from the north east of England, who compete in EBAC Northern League Division Two.

“His pedigree is second-to-none, if you look at his career and where he’s been,” said Blyth joint-manager Ian Skinner.

“It was a bit of a chance signing, he’s a friend of somebody I know. Ali has been good in training and we went through the official channels after he had his contract cancelled with his team.”

Wahda and UAE centre-back Hamdan Al Kamali made eight appearances for Lyon’s reserves when on loan for the second half of 2011/12. Brother Hamid Al Kamali became the first Emirati to compete in the UEFA Champions League’s preliminary stages during a temporary stint at Malta’s Valletta in 2014/15.

UAE centre midfielder Amer Abdulrahman had a trial at Blackburn in 2013 and Al Ain superstar Omar Abdulrahman went through the same process at Manchester City after the 2012 Games.

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Al Nasr resurgence in Arabian Gulf League to face stern test against Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club

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Jassem Yaqoub of Al Nasr (l) chases down Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club defender Walid Abbas (r) (PLC).

Al Nasr’s startling resurgence since January’s decision to rehire Ivan Jovanovic will face a stern test on Friday night when they travel to neighbours Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club for the Arabian Gulf League’s resumption after the international break.

The Blue Wave have won all six top-flight matches under the care of the Serbian – who claimed three major trophies from June 2013-October 2016 – to gate-crash the top three and potential qualification to the 2019 AFC Champions League. With only a trio of fixtures left and sinking rivals Al Wasl without a win in five top-flight fixtures, a huge advantage could be gained with victory at Rashid Stadium.

But their next opponents have won their last two matches as ex-UAE tactician Mahdi Ali begins to assert some consistency into a tumultuous inaugural campaign and should welcome back prolific Senegalese centre forward Makhete Diop after injury.

“I respect Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club,” said Jovanovic. “Always, the derby against them is very strong and exciting.

“Our team is always looking for a win and we will not stop until the final whistle. Teams with consecutive victories are the most affected by breaks in the league.”

Meanwhile, champions-elect Al Ain are immediately thrust back into action after their continental exploits when they welcome Dibba Al Fujairah.

A pair of first-half penalties from Sweden No9 Marcus Berg on Monday earned an invaluable 2-1 victory to keep hopes of progression into the 2018 ACL’s knockouts alive. They will now look to protect a four-point domestic advantage against a Dibba side who are virtually assured of safety.

This is not the case for Hatta and Al Dhafra, with bottom set to host third bottom at Hamdan bin Rashid Stadium.

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Henk ten Cate hails strength of Al Jazira squad as they march into 2018 ACL knockouts

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Al Jazira players mark their victory at Al Gharafa.

Boss Henk ten Cate has revealed he was “convinced” about Al Jazira’s sterling progression to the 2018 AFC Champions League’s round of 16 from the moment he knew that a full-strength squad could finally be selected for Tuesday’s trip to Qatar’s Al Gharafa.

Exiled UAE striker Ali Mabkhout’s completion of a brace with the last kick at Thani bin Jassim Stadium secured an engrossing 3-2 triumph that guaranteed entry to the knockouts for the first time since 2014. This penultimate Group A-clash featured welcome returns by the likes of the two-goal match-winner, influential centre midfielder Mohamed Jamal and UAE forward Ahmed Al Attas.

“To be honest, yes, I did,” said Ten Cate when quizzed about whether he expected the result to send them through via a superior head-to-head record versus Gharafa. “The team were convinced, too.”

“You need to know that since September or November, this is the first time we have a full squad of players. Some of them just came back from injury.

“We felt in the past few days before the match that the players wanted to come here and achieve something.

“Anything can happen in football, and after the 20th minute I thought it wouldn’t be easy.

“It was vital that we make it through to the last 16, both for the club and the UAE.”

To top the section after April 17’s decider, they’ll need to better fellow qualifiers Al Ahli Jeddah’s 2-1 triumph in February’s reverse meeting.

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