Round nine of the 2018/19 Arabian Gulf League delivered several stellar displays, at both ends of the table.
Here are Sport360’s top picks:
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Ismail Al Hammadi (Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club)
The UAE winger rode a rollercoaster in Monday’s 2-1 victory at Emirates Club.
Shabab Al Ahli appeared to be cruising towards a half-time lead, before the ball was hammered against Al Hammadi’s hand and Cheick Diabate levelled from the spot.
Amends was made ASAP with a cute slide-rule pass which put the prolific Jaime Ayovi in to win it.
GOAL OF THE WEEK
Saif Rashid (Sharjah)
Rashid took things into his own hands in an ultimately frustrating 2-2 draw for the league against yo-yo side Ittihad Kalba.
Little seemed on when the bustling right winger forced a defensive blunder near the halfway line.
Fast forward less than 10 seconds later and he’d punished back-tracking Kalba with a fine slow shot.
COACH OF THE WEEK
Marcel Keizer (Al Jazira)
A swift return to Europe with Portugal’s Sporting Lisbon appears just a matter of time for Keizer.
If the ex-Ajax coach is to leave Abu Dhabi after just five months, he goes with his head held high.
Rampant speculation was ignored to ensure his unbeaten troops defeated Al Wasl 2-0. Keizer is going to be missed.
What’s going wrong at Wahda?
More points have slipped away for Laurentiu Reghecampf’s Al Wahda.
The 3-3 draw at promoted Fujairah made for frantic viewing. Wahda went 1-0 down, breezed to a 3-1 lead, then conceded twice in seven minutes and were saved from defeat by the woodwork in injury time.
Victory was last tasted by expected title contenders four matches ago. Alarmingly, these games have seen 11 goals conceded.
But fitness and concentration are also lacking. The last three fixtures have witnessed damaging goals conceded past 80 minutes.
Answers must be found in the international break.
Al Jazira held on to second place in the Arabian Gulf League as they beat Al Wasl 2-0 in a comfortable victory at Mohammad bin Zayed Stadium on Monday.
After a scoreless first half, the hosts opened the scoring four minutes into the second when Khalfan Mubarak combined with Ali Mabkhout to make it 1-0.
Mabkhout then got in on the act as he nodded home from a corner in the 63rd minute.
Elsewhere, Ajman recovered from going a goal down to secure a 2-1 win at home to ten-man Dibba.
Ahmed Khameis was sent off for the visitors in the 35th minute. However, Dibba broke the deadlock deep into first-half stoppage time through Juma Masud.
Six minutes into the second period, Ajman restored parity through Stanley Nka while Ahmed Hermach completed the comeback two minutes later.
Shabab Al Ahli bagged a 2-1 win over Emirates Club on home turf.
Mohammed Marzooq Abdulla’s header put the hosts into the lead in the 12th minute but Cheick Diabate converted from the spot for the away side just before the break.
Three minutes after the restart, Al Ahli regained their lead through Jaime Ayovi who kept his composure in a one-on-one with the keeper for his sixth goal of the season.
Fujairah held Al Wahda to a draw in a 3-3 thriller with Mohamed Khalfan bagging a second half brace.
Hilal Saeed put the home side ahead in the 15th minute before Sebastian Tagliabue struck 11 minutes later to restore parity. Tariq Ahmed then gave the visitors the lead moments before half-time.
Tagliabue scored again 13 minutes into the second half but Khalfan’s goals in the 77th and 84th minutes meant the spoils were shared.
Marcel Keizer is yet to make a definitive decision about whether to swiftly end his successful five-month stay at Al Jazira and accept an alluring approach from Portugal giants Sporting Lisbon.
Keizer, 49, has become the main target for Leoes president Frederico Varandas since head coach Jose Peseiro was dismissed on November 1. Defeat to second-tier Estoril in the Taca de Liga proved terminal for the ex-Al Wahda and Sharjah tactician, who also departed with the 18-time Primeira Liga champions a disappointing fifth in the top flight.
Wild reports in the Portuguese media stated that Keizer had landed at Lisbon Portela Airport on Monday morning. The ex-Ajax supremo, however, remained at the team hotel in Abu Dhabi to continue usual preparations for the evening’s meeting with Al Wasl – potentially his final match in charge – at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in the Arabian Gulf League.
Jazira’s management have been wowed by the summer replacement for legendary fellow Dutchman Henk ten Cate and are loathe to release him. A two-year agreement which contained financial terms that are, by far, the most-lucrative of his 11-year coaching career was only inked in June.
Sporting have turned to Keizer after approaches for lauded countrymen Frank Rijkaard, Frank de Boer and Peter Bosz met with defeat. Another two-year deal, worth €1 million per annum gross, was reported to have been presented by Diario de Noticias.
Intriguingly, Jazira doctor Joao Pedro Araujo – a friend of ex-Al Ahli and Wasl midfielder Hugo Viana, who is currently Sporting’s director of international relations – has already agreed to join Leoes.
Keizer has rehabilitated his coaching career after a promotion from Jong Ajax to the senior team ended with the sack in December 2017, after less than six miserable months at the helm.
Last month’s 2-0 triumph at champions Al Ain underlined the value of his work.
Keizer also counts minnows Argon, VVSB, Telstar, FC Emmen and SC Cambuur among his former postings.