After yet another pulsating round of action from the Arabian Gulf League, Matt Jones casts his eye back over the events of the weekend, which saw leaders Al Ain enter seventh heaven against Ajman, while former UAE national team coach Mahdi Ali earned a first league with in charge of Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club.
Here’s the best bits from this weekend:
Player of the Week: Hussein El Shahat (Al Ain)
What a find. In a title battle that looks like it will be a close one, players acquired in January could make the difference. And the Egyptian midfielder is well and truly blossoming in the Garden City.
Has netted five times in his first four games for the Boss. He bagged a hat-trick in Saturday’s 7-0 rout of Ajman, and added two more assists. Notable mention to Al Wahda’s Sebastian Tagliabue, who notched his 100th AGL goal for the Clarets.
Goal of the Week: Yaser Al Juneibi (Al Dhafra)
The winner of this every week is always usually a cracking effort, but we’ve never seen an own goal quite as spectacular as this. Luckless Al Juneibi appeared to have done everything right, dispossessing the dangerous Ali Mabkhout who had brought down a long ball delightfully.
Unfortunately, instead of rocketing the ball out of play for a corner, Al Juneibi rifled an unstoppable effort into his own top corner, giving goalkeeper Zayed Ahmed no chance whatsoever.
Coach of the week: Mahdi Ali (Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club)
It’s been a tough return to the club Ali spent 15 years at as a player and whom he briefly managed in 2009/10. It’s been a pretty tough start to life for Ali since replacing the enigmatic Cosmin Olaroiu in early December.
Two defeats and two draws had been recorded in the AGL until a maiden win arrived in the form of a 2-0 victory at Emirates Club at the weekend. Stuck in mid-table following a league high eight stalemates from 15 fixtures, perhaps this is the turning point for 2015/16 champions.
Talking point: Can the Tornado spin another unlikely escape bid
It’s been a case of second season syndrome for the side from the UAE-Oman border, who surprised many last season with their relegation survival story having earned promotion to the top-flight for the first time in nearly a decade. Nizar Mahrous’ men hadn’t won in the league for two months prior to Friday’s 3-1 victory over fellow strugglers Sharjah.
It was a priceless win, finally releasing them from the grip of the relegation spots after a prolonged stay and inching them closer to the King who they trail by just three points. With all the other sides below them losing, the great escape could be on once more.
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