New Al Jazira boss Marcel Keizer braces for tough debut against Al Nassr in Arab Club Champions Cup

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New boss Marcel Keizer has promised he will take nothing for granted on debut when his Al Jazira host prolific Nigeria forward Ahmed Musa’s star-studded Al Nassr in the Arab Club Champions Cup.

Former Ajax supremo Keizer, 49, inked a two-year deal in June to replace legendary fellow Dutchman Henk ten Cate. His first competitive task comes at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium on Monday versus big-spending Saudi Arabian giants in the opening tie of the first round.

The dethroned Arabian Gulf League champions face an opponent whose summer spend has landed the likes of ex-Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Jones, Watford’s Morocco winger Nordin Amrabat and Leicester City’s Musa for a reported €16.5 million (Dh69.2m).

“It’s the first official game for us in the Cup and we are looking forward to it,” said Keizer, who will be able to call on leading marksman Ali Mabkhout after he was granted a break from the UAE’s summer training camp in Austria. “Al Nassr are a good opponent and after four weeks of pre-season, it will be good to see where we are at this moment.

“For us, it’s very good and we are looking forward to the game. In terms of fitness, we are at 80 per cent because we are still in pre-season – but the same is for the opponent.

“It will be a nice game to see where we are.

“We are taking this competition very seriously. You will be able to see that in the line-up.

“This competition is a two-legged tie and we want to go far in this Cup. It’s a serious test.

“At the same time, it’s still pre-season and it’s difficult as a coach to see where we are at this moment. But it’s something will take seriously.”

Jazira limped home a distant seventh in the 2017/18 as serious internal problems bled onto the pitch. They’ve since lost the inspirational Ten Cate, plus sold standout Brazilian forward Romarinho to Jeddah’s Al Ittihad.

Keizer has added lightning-quick Ghanaian winger Ernest Asante and experienced Cameroon midfielder Sebastien Siani to his squad. Brazilian winger Leonardo is back in the fold after he spent last term on loan at Nassr.

The Riyadh side discovered a degree of stability last season under Uruguayan coach Jose Daniel Carreno. They have since exhibited serious ambition to improve on last term’s third-place finish in the Saudi Professional League.

Expectant fans, however, may be forced into waiting to see Nigeria’s record World Cup goal scorer in action.

“It won’t be an easy game,” said Carreno. “It will be a difficult game because it’s the first match of the season for both sides.

“Ahmed Musa has had little preparation and we will have to wait and see if he will be fit for the game.

“Since it’s a two-legged tie, we don’t want to attack too much as that will open for Jazira to score. We want to be as tight as possible in defence.”

The second leg will be played at Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium on September 29.

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UAE star sent home after sparking huge brawl in Malaysia friendly prior to Asian Games

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Mohamed Khalfan Al Harasi (Twitter/@uaefa_ae).

The UAE Football Association issued an apology to Malaysia and banished Mohamed Khalfan Al Harasi from their 2018 Asian Games squad after the substitute sparked a huge brawl in a tempestuous friendly between the nations.

Al Harasi, 19, erupted in anger after a collision with opposing captain Adib Zainudin during the 93rd minute of Friday’s 2-0 warm-up loss to their hosts at Shah Alam Stadium. The incident caused players and members of coaching staff from both sides to violently clash, forcing referee Suhaizi Shukri to prematurely end the match.

The outburst – of which Al Ain midfielder Al Harasi later claimed was fuelled by being spat on, without naming the alleged perpetrator – provided an unwelcome distraction just four days away from the Under-23s’ Group C-opener against Syria at Indonesia’s Jalak Harupat Stadium.

“The UAE Football Association expresses its regret for the events that accompanied the match,” an official statement read.

“The main culprit was from our Olympic team, Mohammed Khalfan Al Harasi. This was not related to our usual morals and the sporting spirit, which is always a slogan for all our national teams and clubs during all matches. Both official and friendly, and in various regional, continental and international championships.

“Based on the preliminary report submitted by the administrative body of the Olympic team, it was decided to remove the player Mohammed Khalfan Al Harasi from the list of the team participating in the 2018 Asian Games. We refer him to the committees concerned with the UAE Football Association, who will take the necessary actions according to the regulations of the organisation.

“The Football Federation has apologised to the Malaysian Football Association for the unfortunate events that do not represent the UAE player’s ethics, stressing that sport is ethical before it is competitive.”

Al Harasi is one of the latest starlets produced by the productive Al Ain academy. He has scored once in six Arabian Gulf League matches.

A disciplinary record in the 2016/17 Arabian Gulf Reserve League which included 10 yellow cards in 20 appearances evidences his spiky side.

The teenager attempted to explain his actions on social media.

He said: “I would like to apologise to everybody, for everything. But we have been assaulted and I was spat in my face.

“The name of the UAE is above everything. I needed to hold my nerves, a bit.

“Again, I would like to apologise for everyone in the UAE.”

Malaysia accepted the UAE’s apologies and stated they would be submitting a report to governing body, the AFC.

“After a discussion, Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) received a formal letter from UAE FA stating that they apologise for the incident and take seriously what happened and will be conducting an internal investigation for actions to be taken against players and team officials involved,” said FAM general secretary Stuart Ramalingam.

“On the FAM’s side, however, we will be submitting a report to the Match Commissioner (MC) and referee to AFC today (Saturday) and will follow up with AFC if they need anything else after AFC examines the reports from all parties.”

Maciej Skorza currently leads the UAE U-23s. Their best finish came with silver at the 2010 edition, under Mahdi Ali.

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AGL champions Al Ain make low key first moves in summer transfer market

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Jamal Maroof (Al Ain).

Arabian Gulf League champions Al Ain have made a low-key first splash in the summer transfer market with the captures of Sharjah’s Jamal Maroof and Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club’s Saad Khamis, marking a stark contrast in standing to departing superstar playmaker Omar Abdulrahman.

The Boss were the only side in the expanded, 14-team competition not to arrange any major incomings. But this situation changed on Tuesday night as coach Zoran Mamic was handed some bench options for the imminent defence of the top flight and President’s Cup.

Maroof, 26, fell out of the favour at Sharjah last term and went goalless in seven AGL matches. Despite this underwhelming state of affairs, he inked a two-year deal.

Fellow forward Khamis, 23, also failed to score in six top-flight games when on loan at bottom-placed Hatta. The son of UAE and Al Wasl legend Fahad Khamis has signed up for a three-year stay at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.

Al Ain’s attacking options were depleted by June’s return of 2015 AFC Player of the Year Ahmed Khalil to Shabab Al Ahli. The 27-year-old had inked a short-term contract with them last winter after a troubled stint at Al Jazira.

Inexperienced centre forward Yousef Ahmed, 24, also moved to rivals Wasl at the same time.

This exacerbated a problem caused by the loss of UAE reserve striker Saeed Al Kathiri, 30, to Al Dhafra in summer 2017.

Veteran forward Ibrahim Diaky, 36, was one of few remaining alternatives to 36-goal Sweden centre forward Marcus Berg.

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