Al Nasr continue to impress with addition of UAE centre-back Mohammed Marzooq

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Mohammed Marzooq poses with the Al Nasr shirt (Twitter/@ALNasrSC).

Al Nasr’s impressive cornering of the local market has continued after they recruited UAE centre-back Mohammed Marzooq on a four-year deal in the wake of his exit from Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club.

Marzooq, 29, was one of few players to come out with any credit from the merged club’s trying inaugural campaign. He had previously represented the amalgamated Al Shabab in two stints, sandwiched by 2010/11’s brief stay at Al Jazira.

These performances convinced the Blue Wave to take advantage of his uncertain contractual situation and bring him across Dubai.

“Al Nasr formally contracted with the defender Mohammed Marzooq, who is coming from Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club on a four-year contract,” they tweeted. “He will wear the No3 shirt.”

Ivan Jovanovic’s men last week landed emerging UAE forward Mohamed Al Akbari, 22, on a three-year deal from Al Wahda. Reserve left-back Hussain Abbas moved in the opposite direction.

Marzooq was a non-playing member of the Whites squad that finished runners-up during this winter’s Gulf Cup in Kuwait. In March, he started both defeats to Slovakia and Gabon at the King’s Cup in Thailand.

Nasr are yet to make any permanent changes to their foreign quartet. Hatta’s Brazilian forward Samuel Rosa is rumoured to have been teed up.

Jovanovic’s January return inspired a fourth-placed finish in 2017/18.

Meanwhile, runners-up Al Wahda have secured a one-year contract extension with South Korea centre-back Rim Chang-woo.

Rim, 26, has started all 56 AGL matches since his January 2016 arrival from Ulsan Hyundai.

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Henk ten Cate is sure 'crazy' Al Jazira can survive lion's den at Persepolis and make ACL progress

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Al Jazira boss Henk ten Cate (Al Jazira).

Al Jazira boss Henk ten Cate is convinced Persepolis’ infamous, 80,000-capacity Azadi Stadium will bring out the best in his “crazy” team as they bid to seal a historic AFC Champions League quarter-final berth.

Teenage defender Khalifa Al Hammadi’s 96th-minute header on Monday sealed a dramatic 3-2 first-leg win at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium. The Pride of Abu Dhabi now face the ominous task of completing the job next Monday in Tehran.

Home for the 11-time Persian Gulf Pro League winners is Asia’s most-feared ground. But Ten Cate is sure his callow troops’ experience of narrowly losing to Real Madrid in December’s sold-out Club World Cup semi-final will stand them in good stead.

“We are used to playing here [the UAE] in front of hardly any spectators,” said the 63-year-old Dutchman. “But when we have spectators, the team makes the best performances.

“During the Club World Cup, we had people watching us and we did really well.

“This young team is capable of doing crazy things.

“It is not a guarantee, I know. But I can tell you one thing, we are ready.

“We will fight until we die for a good result. This is the quality of this team.”

Fine second-half goals from UAE hot shot Ali Mabkhout and Brazilian forward Romarinho cancelled out Iran striker Ali Alipour’s headed 42nd-minute opener for the visitors. A controversial, retaken penalty from substitute Godwin Mensha then put Persepolis level, before Al Hammadi’s first career goal sparked riotous celebrations in the capital.

Jazira have suffered both on and off-field strife this term. This made Ten Cate even happier about the victory.

He said: “Don’t forget, we have a pretty inexperienced team. We have a lot of young players.

“I am very proud of this team, very proud.

“If you think of our situation for the entire season and then think this team is capable of doing this? You can only do one thing and that is applaud.

“It is the only thing you can do after all the problems we faced.”

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Fujairah begin life without Diego Maradona as final fight for 2018/19 AGL kicks off

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Dr Abdullah Mesfer will be in the dugout for Fujairah instead of Diego Maradona (Fujairah).

The final battle for places in the 2018/19 Arabian Gulf League kicks off on Wednesday with the promotion play-offs’ first legs.

The impending return to a 14-team competition saw the traditional, two-up-two-down format parked. In its place on May 9 and 13, the bottom two from the top flight are set to meet the third and fourth-placed finishers from First Division League – champions Bani Yas and Ittihad Kalba automatically secured their advancement during the regular season.

Second-bottom Emirates Club will look to maintain their AGL status for a sixth-successive campaign when they battle fourth-top Al Hamriyah. But the majority of attention is focused on Diego Maradona-less Fujairah’s quest to go up for the first time since 2015/16 when they scrap with Hatta.

A soap opera between the Wolves and the Argentina icon saw them part ways within hours of April 27’s failure to secure an automatic berth. The club then prematurely announced a shock one-year contract renewal three days later, with negotiations definitively breaking down last Thursday.

Ex-Dibba Al Fujairah, Al Dhafra and UAE Under-23 coach Dr Abdullah Mesfer has stepped into the breach for third-placed Fujairah. But bottom-placed Hatta’s chairman Ali Mohammed bin Obaid Al Badawi quelled talk that this chaos would be a distraction.

“Our focus is on the game, not on the coach’s identity,” he told Al Bayan. “This is with respect to all coaches, whether it is Diego Maradona or Dr Abdullah Mesfer.”

Hatta’s hopes are harmed by the likely continued absence of 11-goal leading marksman Samuel Rosa.

Meanwhile, Emirates will need to defy a wretched run of form that has seen them accrue just one win from their last 11 matches in all competitions.

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