Bragging rights were at the forefront of Al Nasr coach Ivan Jovanovic’s mind as he prepared to meet crosstown rivals Al Wasl. The two traditional heavyweights face off at Al Maktoum Stadium in the Arabian Gulf League.
The hosts have begun 2015/16 in fine style, only dropping points in the goalless Arabian Gulf Cup-clash between the sides on September 4.
“Without a doubt, it will be an exciting game and I think it is the most important one in this round,” the Blue Wave boss said. “I realise the value of the historic derby between Al Nasr and Al Wasl. We are determined to achieve victory, to continue the good streak in the league.”
Wasl have experienced mixed results during a daunting AGL start, beating hotly-tipped Al Jazira 2-1 in the opening round before champions Al Ain inflicted a 2-0 defeat.
But dynamic forward Caio Canedo is back in the fold after he attained the Timor-Leste passport which will let him fill the Asian slot in their four-player foreign quota.
“After the performance we presented in front of Al Ain in the last round of the league, we need a big game,” coach Gabriel Calderon said.
“The team has to prove themselves again.
“I have confidence in my players. My team will also be boosted by the return of Caio Canedo.”
Meanwhile, defensive midfielder Renan Garcia made his escape from the wilderness at Nasr yesterday by signing a one-year deal at Emirates Club.
Garcia, 29, had become unwanted after the Blue Wave snapped up Jires Kembo Ekoko last month. He replaces Morocco midfielder Issam Erraki in the Falcons’ four-player foreign quota, ahead of the summer transfer window closing today.
Record buy Moussa Sow must fight for his spot in the resurgent Al Ahli starting line-up like any other player, warns boss Cosmin Olaroiu.
The Red Knights return to Arabian Gulf League-duty tonight when winless Al Dhafra travel to Rashid Stadium. This follows on from Wednesday’s historic progression past Naft Tehran and into the AFC Champions League semi-finals.
This fixture marks the first time Olaroiu will have all his fearsome attacking resources available with €17m (Dh70m) forward Sow eset to make his top-flight bow.
Such a move could see UAE internationals Ahmed Khalil or Habib Fardan drop to the substitutes’ bench, but the Romanian insists there is no guarantee he will break up a winning team which began their top-flight campaign with an 8-1 routing of Fujairah.
He said: “Sow is available, he will join the team. Like all the players, he has to win his place in the team.
“He will have a chance, but he will have to win his place. I prefer it to be difficult rather than have no options.”
Sow has already featured once for his new club since this month’s landmark move from Fenerbahce, playing 90 minutes in the 1-1 Arabian Gulf Cup-draw at Al Shaab. He is ineligible for the 2015 ACL.
The selection headaches continue at the back for Ahli, controversial No1 Majed Nasser still being kept out of his club side by excellent understudy Ahmed Dida.
“Dida has done very well since the moment Majed was suspended [for six games in the ACL],” Olaroiu said. “Majed is a very good goalkeeper, he has to preparing to be at the same level as Dida.”
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The Red Knights endured an awful title defence last term, dropping to seventh.
Olaroiu wanted his troops to “find the right motivation” for the upcoming game. He said: “Al Dhafra didn’t start the season very well, but they are still a difficult team. We need to find the right motivation and forget qualification.”
Dhafra have recorded 3-1 topflight losses to champions Al Ain and Al Nasr this term. But coach Laurent Banide was confident success is near. He said: “The team is evolving from game to game. The results of the team will be better in the next matches.”
Teenage striker Anthony Martial further endeared himself to Manchester United’s supporters with a nerveless brace as his side came from behind to win 3-2 at Southampton.
Scorer of a memorable solo goal in last weekend’s 3-1 win over Liverpool, 19-year-old Martial struck either side of half-time at St Mary’s after Graziano Pelle had given Southampton a 13th-minute lead.
Juan Mata added a third in the 68th minute and despite Pelle scoring again, United held on for a victory that propelled Louis van Gaal’s side up to second place in the Premier League table, two points below leaders Manchester City, who lost 2-1 at home to West Ham United on Saturday.
Martial, who signed from Monaco on transfer deadline day for a reported initial fee of 49 million euros (Dhs203m), started up front alongside Wayne Rooney, who returned following a hamstring injury.
Southampton went ahead when Pelle followed in to score after Sadio Mane’s shot from James Ward-Prowse’s inviting right-wing cross had been parried by visiting goalkeeper David de Gea.
Pelle hit the post moments later, but Martial equalised in the 34th minute, throwing Virgil van Dijk off balance with a neat Cruyff turn inside the box and slipping a shot beneath Maarten Stekelenburg.
He put United ahead five minutes into the second half, seizing on a woeful Maya Yoshida back-pass and coolly beating Stekelenburg, before Mata slammed home after Memphis Depay’s shot came back off the post following a hypnotic 45-pass move.
While Martial again stole the headlines, United were also indebted to De Gea, who produced a jaw-dropping one-handed save to claw a Jose Fonte header off the line when the score was 2-1.
Pelle converted a cross from Mane with a well-placed header four minutes from time, but United survived.
United’s old rivals Liverpool continue to struggle, having seen their run of league games without victory extended to four following a 1-1 draw at home to Norwich City.
Daniel Sturridge made his first appearance since April after hip surgery and his side went ahead in the 48th minute when Danny Ings, a half-time replacement for Christian Benteke, drilled home his first Liverpool goal.
But Norwich equalised 13 minutes later courtesy of a deft lob by centre-back Russell Martin — his third goal of the campaign.
The result left Brendan Rodgers’s Liverpool in 13th place, seven points below City, but a point above defending champions Chelsea, who beat Arsenal 2-0 on Saturday in a game that saw Gabriel and Santi Cazorla sent off for Arsene Wenger’s side.
Earlier, Son Heung-min’s first Premier League goal earned Tottenham Hotspur victory over Crystal Palace.
The South Korea international struck in the 68th minute at White Hart Lane, moments after Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris had tipped a shot from Bakary Sako onto the post at the other end, to give the hosts a 1-0 win.
Son has now scored three goals in two games, after his debut brace against Qarabag of Azerbaijan in the Europa League, and Spurs coach Mauricio Pochettino hailed his impact following his move from Bayer Leverkusen. “When you sign players you expect them to make a big impact in the team.
We are very happy with him,” said the Argentine. “He has adapted to the team very well. After scoring twice in the Europa League he scored again and when you arrive at the club as a striker, that’s very good.”
It was Spurs’ first home win of the campaign and lifted Pochettino’s side to ninth place in the table, below Alan Pardew’s Palace on goals scored.