No one can dispute the Arabian Gulf League champions Al Ain are “the best team in the country” after their 3-0 dismantling of Alvaro Negredo’s floundering Al Nasr, according to coach Zoran Mamic.
The 2017/18 top flight and President’s Cup winners put in an imperious performance on Friday night at Maktoum bin Rashid Stadium.
Goals from Sweden No9 Marcus Berg, Japan utility man Tsukasa Shiotani and improved Brazilian forward Caio made it a perfect three wins from three for the holders, while making it the reverse situation for pointless hosts who hoped to be celebrating the much-anticipated bow of ex-Spain, Real Madrid, Sevilla, Manchester City and Besiktas striker Negredo.
“I do not really care how much we scored and how we came back to Al Ain with the three points,” said Mamic, whose troops next entertain Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club on Friday for one of the calendar’s glamour fixtures.
“The fact is that Al Ain is the best team in the country.
“The reasons for this are many, but I will summarise them to you in two ways.
“The first is the strong personality of all at Al Ain and the capabilities of the team’s best players.
“There are also technical and statistical objects that I do not like talking about as an Al Ain coach.”
A slide tackle from Nasr’s ex-France midfielder Yohan Cabaye unfortunately played Berg in to lash home a second goal in two top-flight appearances.
The lead was doubled on 30 minutes when Shiotani nodded in Caio’s corner, with the latter later converting a 74th-minute penalty.
Negredo then saw his poor spot-kick saved, down the middle, by UAE goalkeeper Khalid Essa to ensure a debut to forget after Tuesday’s move from Besiktas.
Mamic has been engaged in an ongoing row about contact time with his large national team contingent since last month. He believed ample preparation had fuelled this resounding result
He said: “Throughout the game, Al Ain showed a strong fighting spirit, great concentration and intelligence, and deserved to return from the stadium with the full three points.
“I believe that the performance and result of the match is a good step for the team in the title race.
“The difference lies in the preparation period.
“Before the Al Dhafra match, there was not enough time to equip the team after the return of the internationals from the UAE team.
“But before this game, we held five training sessions.”
Sorry Nasr next travel to promoted Ittihad Kalba on Friday.
They are one of only three teams who are yet to avoid defeat in the early weeks of this top-flight campaign.
Dibba Al Fujairah have turned to club-less Kenya forward Masoud Juma in a desperate attempt to end their appalling start to 2018/19.
Juma, 22, has been without an employer since he was released by South Africa’s Cape Town City – managed by ex-Porto and Blackburn Rovers striker Benni McCarthy – on August 4. This followed a paltry return of one goal in eight matches since January’s procurement from Kariobangi Sharks in his homeland.
He now joins an ailing club that has lost all five matches at the start of the season to a combined score of 15-4. Brazilian striker Guilherme Schettine is likely to make way in the four-player foreign quota after four scoreless appearances since a fruitless summer switch from Saudi Arabia’s Al Batin.
“Kenyan forward Masoud Juma is officially in the Dibba Al Fujairah ranks,” the Fishermen tweeted. “He joins after being at Cape Town City FC.”
Juma is likely to be handed an immediate debut in Thursday’s high-pressure visit of Al Dhafra. Both sides are winless and sit in the two relegation places, with the visitors propping up the table.
The attacker had been a prolific scorer in Kenya at Shabana, Bandari, SoNy Sugar and the Sharks. For the national team, three goals have been registered in seven caps.
Dibba boss Paulo Comeli will need Juma to start firing if a fifth-successive top-flight campaign is to be earned by next May.
Former Real Madrid, Manchester City and Spain striker Alvaro Negredo is poised to become the latest big-name striker to try his hand in the Arabian Gulf League.
Negredo, 33, joined Al Nasr from Turkey’s Besiktas on Friday on a lucrative two-year deal. La fiera de Vallecas (The beast of Vallecas) is poised for an immediate debut on Friday evening when champions Al Ain come to Dubai.
The UAE’s top-flight has seen a number of centre forward’s with huge reputations take to its fields. Mixed results have been witnessed since professionalism began in 2007/08.
Here, Sport360 runs through the list.
There was no buyer’s remorse from – the now defunct – Al Ahli after they snapped up Grafite.
The nuanced Brazil striker excelled at Rashid Stadium from 2011-15, exhibiting all the qualities that made him a Bundesliga winner and German Player of the Year at Wolfsburg.
Beyond his 63 goals in 79 top-flight appearances, he set a sterling example on and off the pitch.
Al Ain pushed hard to land the Ghana superstar, their ambition being rewarded with a flood of goals and trophies.
Gyan scored a mind-boggling 128 goals in 123 matches from 2011-15 after his procurement – initially on loan – from Sunderland.
Hail the hero from the Garden City, rather than the injury ravaged figure who underwhelmed on loan at Ahli from Shanghai SIPG during 2016/17.
Italy’s World Cup 2006 winner acts as a harbinger of doom for the Blue Wave.
The giant striker was expected to dominate the division once a deal was agreed with Juventus. But beset by injury problems, he scored just three times in eight top-flight appearances before his deal was mutually terminated.
Toni would later witheringly say you cannot play “real football” in the UAE.
The inventive Montenegro striker experienced genuine highs and lows at Al Jazira.
July 2014’s €6 million deal with Juve was repaid by goals; 25 came in 23 AGL matches in an entertaining 2014/15 under Belgium’s Eric Gerets. Tragedy would soon strike, however, in November 2015 when a catastrophic knee injury would eventually lead to retirement.
The 34-year-old has recently registered as a professional golfer.
Blink and you missed him.
The prolific France and Juventus striker inked a one-year deal at Bani Yas in August 2011. A recurring thigh injury and a personal ennui saw his deal scrapped by that November.
This forgettable spell included three listless matches. A move to River Plate in Argentina – the country of his birth – brought Trezeguet back to life and 14 goals followed in 21 Primera B Nacional fixtures.