With each passing performance, evidence grows that Al Jazira have mined another source of Asian football’s rarest commodity – a home-grown goal scorer.
In a 2018 AFC Champions League-opener against Qatar’s Al Gharafa that featured Netherlands superstar Wesley Sneijder, 2015 Asian Cup top scorer Ali Mabkhout of the UAE and prolific Iran centre forward Mehdi Taremi, 22-year-old forward Ahmed Al Attas provided the star turn.
Bursting with confidence imbued by reaching a career-best tally of five strikes in 11 2017/18 Arabian Gulf League games, a bouncing ball 40 yards out was met with a ferocious half-volley to make it 3-1 to the committed Pride of Abu Dhabi in Monday’s eventual 3-2 win.
A breakthrough season had its landmark moment. Now, it is up to both player and country to ensure his precipitous trajectory extends to being a weapon of mass destruction at January 2019’s Asian Cup.
The UAE are unique among Asian nations in being blessed with two proven, elite strikers in Mabkhout and 2015 AFC Player of the Year, Ahmed Khalil. A third option isn’t being greedy – it could be the difference between failure or success next year on home soil.
Yet, the coming man has been overlooked throughout Alberto Zaccheroni’s four-month Whites tenure. This cannot continue.
Always respected for his work-rate and technical acumen, question marks had existed about whether a ruthless edge could be added to Al Attas’ play.
This worry is repeated across a continent in which prolific, indigenous marksman are few and far between.
Shanghai SIPG forward Wu Lei notched 11 more times than his nearest compatriot in the 2017 Chinese Super League and Al Nassr’s Mohammad Al Sahlawi is back among the goals in the 2017/18 Saudi Professional League after two miserable campaigns. The top-scoring Australian in the ongoing A-League, Newcastle Jets’ Andrew Nabbout, has less than half the tally of Sydney FC’s 20-goal Bobo.
Al Attas had struck only seven goals in 34 AGL matches from 2013/14-2016/17.
But a growing importance is detailed by the fact his nine 2017/18 starts is one more than he had totalled throughout the previous period (eight) in its entirety.
His marked improvement is a credit to himself and his club. Now, it’s time for the UAE to bear the fruits of this labour.
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