Round two of the Arabian Gulf League is done and dusted and it’s been another intriguing weekend of action.
Al Nasr, tipped as pre-season title challengers, lost again, while 2016/17 champions Al Jazira look something like the team they were two seasons ago. Meanwhile, could Sharjah be a surprise challenger?
Here we pick out the best bits from the second week of action, plus a talking point.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: WELLITON (SHARJAH)
Who else? The 31-year-old Brazilian, much like his club, has started the AGL season on fire, but took it to another level against Al Nasr. A 27-minute hat-trick in the first-half – a perfect treble (right foot, header, left foot) – saw the King sitting on the throne of a 5-0 half-time lead.
The Blue Wave came back, making it 5-3 to unsettle the home side, before the striker’s fourth late on killed off a team predicted to feature in the title race after a busy summer recruitment drive.
GOAL OF THE WEEK: MARQUINHOS GABRIEL (AL NASR)
Well, there wasn’t a great deal for Ivan Jovanovic’s men to take from a chastening 6-3 hammering at Sharjah – but Gabriel’s stunning strike to make it 5-3 certainly was.
Yohan Cabaye and Iury Castilho got them back in it and the Sharjah supporters may well have been fearing the worst when Gabriel made it 5-3. He received the ball on the edge of the box with little on, but he shifted the ball onto his left foot and arched an excellent strike over helpless Adel Al Hosani and into the top corner.
It’s been a tough start to the 2018/19 season for the Blue Wave, with two opening defeats, but Ivanovic will take a crumb of comfort from seeing how his side dug in after facing a 5-0 scoreline at the break.
COACH OF THE WEEK: ABDULAZIZ AL ANBARI (SHARJAH)
We’re two games into the season so it’s ridiculous to claim Sharjah are AGL title contenders, but scoring 10 goals in two games – including a 6-3 thrashing of a team supposed to be one of the frontrunners – cannot be ignored.
Al Anbari has done a fine job of trying to resurrect the King after years in the doldrums. He was handed the reigns on a permanent basis last October and steered them to a sixth-placed league finish – their highest in five years.
There’s plenty of football to be played, but there seem to be plenty of goals in Sharjah this season.
ARE AL JAZIRA BACK?
What have we already said about making bold, early predictions? But the Pride of Abu Dhabi’s 3-2 win over Fujairah is far more interesting that it may appear at first glance.
Firstly, victory was achieved despite losing goalkeeper Ali Khaseif to a red card just after half-time. The hosts were leading 1-0 but then went on to extend it to 3-0 even after the UAE stopper’s dismissal. Only a late brace from Mohamed Benyettou made things interesting.
Secondly, Khalfan Mubarak appears back to his best. After starring in the crazy opening day 5-4 triumph over Shabab Al Ahli, the majestic midfielder laid on all three assists at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.
With him back to his best, they could trouble the title favourites. Oh, and they also still have Ali Mabkhout – the league’s deadliest striker.
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