Best is yet to come from former Al Ain star Omar Abdulrahman after mixed Al Hilal debut

Matt Jones 19/08/2018
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Omar Abdulrahman’s much-anticipated debut in Al Hilal blue finally happened as he lifted a first piece of silverware with the Saudi Arabian giants in a 2-1 win over Al Ittihad in the Saudi Super Cup.

After his controversial exit from Al Ain, where he had been for 12 years, Crescent fans got their first sight of the frizzy-haired magician at Loftus Road on Saturday.

Hilal took a 2-0 lead through Brazilian playmaker Carlos Eduardo and Venezuela striker Gelmin Rivas, before Morocco midfielder Karim El Ahmadi’s deflected strike made a game of it.

Here, we analyse the performance of the man known simply as Amoory.

30-SECOND REPORT

There would have been huge clamour to get a first glimpse of Abdulrahman back in the famous blue of the Crescent, but Al Hilal fans shouldn’t expect too much from a player who’s hardly participated in pre-season.

He was on the periphery largely in London, but did play a surprisingly physical part in his side’s killer second goal. Another pass that almost led to a goal was a small sign of what can be expected this season.

GOT RIGHT

Flashes of class – There was one moment in the first half where Amoory advanced with the ball and sliced an audacious pass with the outside of the left boot through to Saudi Arabia international Salem Al Dawsari. It was Amoory personified, but Assaf Al Qarni was out quickly to prevent a goal. It was a rare flash but an insight into just what Hilal have on their hands.

GOT WRONG

Doing too much – This was his first action of note this summer so we mustn’t be too critical, but whereas UAE football fans are used to seeing passes threaded through the eye of the needle and the ball depart off Amoory’s boot with laser-beam precision, most of his attempts in London were very wayward.

Not a 9 – Abdulrahman is many things; sublime footballer, team leader, exquisite passer and owner of an impressive hair-do. A bustling, commanding No9 striker – not so much. The false-nine position is popular in football today, but here he looked isolated while his supreme talent was wasted.

KEY MOMENTS

16m – Abdulrahman’s first contribution of note is to get in the way of a fierce Thiago Carleto free-kick.

21m – Receives the ball and a neat touch takes him away from a defender but another black and yellow shirt clears.

26m – Another neat bit of skill on the touchline sees him skip away from a marker and bend a pass into midfield for a team-mate.

33m – Hilal should really be ahead and it was Amoory who sparked it. A quite audacious outside of the foot pass sets Al Dawsari racing away, Ittihad stopper Al Qarni is out to thwart him. Hilal try to rescue the situation but Abdullah Otayf’s final effort is fired high and wide.

38m – Tries to set up a chance but his ball into the box is a little aimless and Ittihad clear easily.

58m – Impish backheel looks simple but a classy touch helps to sustain Hilal attack.

61m – Amoory plays a part in Hilal’s killer second, tenaciously winning the ball back as Ittihad dally in clearing. The ball squeezes through to Eduardo who frees Rivas and he rounds the keeper calmly before slotting home.

75m – The playmaker is subbed off, to a rapturous reception

VERDICT

A far from spectacular outing at Loftus Road, but there’s no doubt that Amoory will soon settle into his new (old) home of Riyadh. He showed glimpses of his mercurial talent here and while he can and will play a lot better, superior team-mates in new surroundings should allow him to effect more influence on the bigger stage of Asia.

RATING: 5/10

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UAE face China with their 2018 Asian Games future on the line

Matt Jones 17/08/2018
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Zayed Al Ameri celebrates after giving the UAE a 3-0 lead against Timor-Leste.

The UAE are on the precipice of qualifying for the 2018 Asian Games knockout stages – but a daunting task awaits against Group C juggernauts China in Soreang on Sunday.

Maciej Skorza’s Under-23 side opened the Games with a meek 1-0 defeat at the hands of Syria on Tuesday, but a morale-boosting 4-1 thrashing of East-Timor on Thursday earned them their first win, meaning they are currently going through as one of the four best third-placed teams.

Their current goal difference of +2 puts them second behind tournament co-hosts Indonesia.

That could all change following the final group games but the Junior Whites will head into Sunday’s clash at the 27,000 capacity Stadion Si Jalak Harupat at least buoyed by their easy win on Thursday.

Ittihad Kalba midfielder Shaheen Surour opened the scoring in just the second minute and the UAE were well on their way to a maiden victory of the tournament after 10 minutes when 25-year-old Al Wahda centre-back Salem Sultan nodded in Jassem Yaqoub’s corner.

Yaqoub, 21, the talented Al Nasr forward, then laid on a third for Al Jazira youngster Zayed Al Ameri to make it 3-0 after just 19 minutes. Mesmerising footwork from the Blue Wave man left his marker chasing shadows and he centred for Jazira youngster Al Ameri, also 21, who rifled home.

The rising Pride of Abu Dhabi talent then made it 4-0 just beyond the hour mark as he profited from a defensive mix-up to prod home.

Timor-Leste grabbed a consolation three minutes from the end when Rufino netted following a counter-attack.

China dismantled Timor-Leste in their opening game 6-0 – Gao Zhunyi netting a brace – before beating Syria 3-0 on Thursday.

Son Heung-min came off the bench but was unable to prevent South Korea from falling to defeat on Friday.

Son Heung-min came off the bench but was unable to prevent South Korea from falling to defeat on Friday.

He ain’t no fortunate Son

Son Heung-min‘s hopes of avoiding military service by securing Asian Games gold suffered a blow Friday as South Korea were stunned 2-1 by minnows Malaysia.

The Tottenham Hotspur forward came off the bench just before the hour-mark but couldn’t help the defending champions overturn a two-goal deficit, after Safawi Rasid’s first-half double for 171st-ranked Malaysia.

Son is skipping Premier League action for the regional Olympics, where victory would mean an exemption from South Korea’s mandatory 21 months of military service.

Son, 26, was released by Spurs for the tournament, which represents his final chance to avoid nearly two years in military barracks – a serious setback to his career.

South Korea, who thrashed Bahrain 6-0 in their opening match, dominated possession in the second half, particularly after Son’s introduction, but were unable to claw their way back.

Japan-based striker Hwang Ui-jo, who is also facing his final chance to avoid military service, pulled one goal back for the Koreans late on.

And Son had a golden chance to equalise with a free-kick just outside the box in the last minute, but he placed it inches wide of the post.

Malaysia, 114 places lower than their opponents in the FIFA rankings, were happy to sit deep and play on the break, and frustrated the South Koreans further with frequent stoppages.

Malaysia’s Rasid opened the scoring after just five minutes and he cannoned his second in off the post in first-half injury time.

However, the Taegeuk Warriors’ hopes remain very much alive as they now require a draw against Kyrgyzstan in their final group clash to reach the knockout stages.

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Ahmed Musa's debut goal sinks Al Jazira in Arab Club Champions Cup

Matt Jones 13/08/2018
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Picture via Al Jazira's Twitter page.

It’s advantage Al Nassr in the opening round of the Arab Club Champions Cup after substitute Ahmed Musa’s debut goal gave the Saudi Arabian side a 2-1 win over Al Jazira in Abu Dhabi.

There was a famous face on the bench for the Knights of Najd, with the Nigeria forward joining from Leicester City earlier this month for an initial fee of £14.8m, which is believed could rise to £25m.

And the Super Eagles star proved to be a super sub as he climbed off the bench and scored a superb winning goal, with the Saudi Professional League side now in the driving seat to make the last 16 when the sides reconvene in Riyadh at the end of September.

New Jazira coach Marcel Keizer was disappointed by the result but pleased his side are continuing to improve ahead of the Arabian Gulf League kick-off at the end of the month.

“I’m disappointed about the match but happy to see my team fighting with a good spirit,” said the 49-year-old Dutchman, who was sacked by Ajax in December.

“We can of course do better and the opponents were very good. Two nice goals but mistakes from us.

“We had a couple of chances and got through a lot of work in defence which I’m happy about. We need to keep possession better because we can play good.

“We are in the fourth week (of his reign) and this game was played in difficult circumstances. Maybe we’ll get a chance in Saudi and make a nice game there.”

The Keizer reign got off to the worst possible start when Jazira fell behind after barely three minutes.

Ali Khaseif’s horrible clearance was pounced on by a yellow shirt and headed into the path of Yahya Al Shehri – the attacking midfielder who played in all three group stage games for the Green Falcons at this summer’s World Cup.

He made Khaseif pay by curling a fine effort in off the inside of the post.

Jazira have lacked bite in midfield in recent years, but that issue looks like it might not be one for much longer with the summer acquisition of muscular Cameroon international midfielder Sebastien Siani.

The 31-year-old, signed from Belgium’s Antwerp, was industrious in the Jazira engine room and flashed a fierce left-footed effort just over Brad Jones’ bar on eight minutes.

An equaliser arrived after 22 minutes and followed a flowing move, although it came courtesy of a goalkeeping gaffe.

Siani fed Brazilian winger Leonardo – who could be set for a reprieve under Keizer. The architect of Al Ain’s downfall in the final of the 2016 AFC Champions League final with previous side Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors slipped in Ali Mabkhout who turned and fired a fairly tame effort at former Liverpool stopper Jones.

He nevertheless spilled it and the grateful Khalfan Mubarak gleefully swept into the roof of the net.

Jones would later make amends in first-half stoppage time when Mabkhout got round the back and the veteran Australian saved well with his legs.

In-between that, Khaseif was left motionless but almost with more egg on his face when Awadh Khamis’ firm free-kick hit the post and somehow deflected to safety instead of over the line off the goalkeeper’s knee.

There was little goalmouth action for much of the second-half, hardly surprising as both sides struggled in the stifling Abu Dhabi August heat.

But the one moment of note arrived courtesy of new Nassr signing Musa, the man newly arrived from the Premier League.

The Nigerian, who scored twice for the Super Eagles in Russia, came off the bench to make his debut and had an almost instantaneous impact.

The 25-year-old forward immediately began to chip away at what could turn out to be a huge fee half an hour after coming on for another Premier League old boy, ex-Watford winger Nordin Amrabat.

He lit up an otherwise draining second half 15 minutes from time. There was still plenty of work to do when the ball was played up to him 30 yards out.

But he obliterated Jazira centre-back Musallem Fayez for pace and stroked home past Khaseif calmly with his wrong foot to give the Saudi side a first-leg advantage.

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