A new era officially begins for undefeated Al Jazira on Tuesday night at relegation-threatened Al Dhafra when Damien Hertog takes charge for the first time after a successful caretaker stint.
Hertog, 44, stepped in for fellow Dutchman Marcel Keizer once he abruptly departed in November for Portugal giants Sporting Lisbon after only five months in charge. A 2-1 victory in the Abu Dhabi-derby against Al Wahda and 6-0 humbling of lowly Emirates Club were registered in the Arabian Gulf League by the ex-assistant coach, impressing the club’s hierarchy sufficiently to confirm his permanent hiring late on Sunday night.
“In line with the club’s efforts to support the sports teams and to achieve more successes, Al Jazira announces the appointment of assistant coach Damien Hertog as the team’s coach,” a statement read about a deal that is expected to initially run until June 2019.
“This comes from the interest of the management to ensure stability and provide all the requirements for the success of the team in the next stage.
“The management’s decision is in recognition of Damien’s work since the beginning of the season, which reflects positively on the performance of the team.
“It is an extension of the confidence in the coach from the management, players and fans. It is also to promote the technical gains and maintain the sporting approach of the Pride of Abu Dhabi.”
Hertog’s only previous experience in charge came in 2010/11 with Dutch semi-professionals Excelsior Maassluis. Several different postings in Feyenoord’s youth set-up would follow, prior to a two-month spell underneath compatriot Mario Been at Cyprus’ APOEL from June-July 2017.
Ex-Ajax supremo Keizer then selected him for his technical staff in Abu Dhabi last June.
Hertog has become the Pride of Abu Dhabi’s third-successive Dutch leader.
Henk ten Cate worked wonders at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium from December 2015 to May 2018, winning the 2015/16 President’s Cup and 2016/17 AGL.
Meanwhile, Al Nasr’s temporary duo of Ali Murad and Caio Zanardi will be in the dugout when promoted Fujairah visit Dubai.
Ivan Jovanovic was sacked, for the second time, in the wake of last week’s 1-0 loss to Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club. This result left the big-spending Blue Wave down in 10th heading into round 12.
UAE right-back Ahmed Al Yassi admitted change had to occur.
“Our results have not been satisfactory in the last two rounds,” he said after Jovanovic became the seventh managerial casualty of the season. “We have to show fighting spirit and total discipline in order to get through this period.”
The evening’s remaining fixtures see Shabab Al Ahli try to gatecrash the leaders when they travel to top-flight returnees Bani Yas. Emirates will attempt to escape the drop zone with just a third victory of the season, against Ajman.
Al Ain’s quest to impress upon this month’s Club World Cup debut has seen them conclude a free transfer for Mali defensive midfielder Tongo Doumbia and close on the complicated recruitment of ex-Sporting Lisbon playmaker Ruben Ribeiro.
The Boss’ victory in the 2017/18 Arabian Gulf League granted them a berth as the home entrant for the tournament, from December 12-22. This global event has no restrictions on the use of foreigners, unlike the UAE’s top flight that only allows the registration of four non-Emiratis.
Ex-Dinamo Zagreb anchor Doumbia, 29, has signed a two-year arrangement, while a successful conclusion is imminently expected on drafting in Ribeiro. The 31-year-old unilaterally terminated his Sporting contract in the wake of May’s assault on the training ground by angry supporters, though the Portuguese club contest his right to do this and have demanded any suitors pay a €62 million release clause.
These switches will reignite rumours about the long-term futures of half of their resident non-UAE quartet. Brazilian forward Caio has been linked to Porto and his deal expires next summer, while Egypt midfielder Hussein El Shahat is coveted by Al Ahly plus a host of Saudi Professional League-outfits.
“As for Ruben’s file, we are still awaiting the approval letter from FIFA officials on our letter addressed to them through the UAE Football Association and the Players Status Committee to approve the registration of the player,” said chairman Ghanem Al Hajeri.
“The player, himself, has an official document issued by the Portuguese Sports Court and certified by the Portuguese Football Association stipulating that the he a free player. All is on the right track.
“We confirm that the registration processes for both Ruben and Doumbia kicked off on September 31.”
Al Ain play New Zealand’s Team Wellington in December 12’s first-round clash at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium. Holders Real Madrid are the headline entrant among the seven regional Champions League winners, plus Al Ain.
Al Wasl’s awful results in the Arabian Gulf League will not “fool” defending champions Al Ain, according to defender Mohamed Ahmed.
A chasm of 14 points and nine places separate the joint leaders – along with Sharjah and Al Jazira – from Monday night’s relegation-threatened hosts at Zabeel Stadium. This represents a dramatic decline for the Cheetahs, who finished third last term.
“Al Wasl’s results this season will not fool us,” said Ahmed. “This is because they have excellent players in their squad, but they did not appear at their best during the league.
“In the Zayed Champions Cup, they played distinguished teams [Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad and Egypt’s Al Ahly] and fought to make the quarter-finals of the competition.
“We will be keen to deal with high concentration during our next game and I hope that we will win the three points, with all respect for the ambitions of the opposing team.
“Al Ain and Al Wasl are certainly the two biggest teams in the UAE and I believe that the presence of Al Ain’s supporters is an important motivation for the team to achieve strong results.”
The Boss’ charge to earn a fifth top-flight win in six matches has been hindered by the continued absences of UAE midfielders Amer Abdulrahman and Rayan Yaslam.
Wasl will hope that Caio Canedo is fit to feature. The Brazilian striker scored a superb long-range leveller in last week’s 1-1 draw at Sharjah for his seventh goal in 11 2018/19 AGL matches, but received a head knock.
إيماناً بدور الجماهير، فقد أطلقت إدارة النادي مبادرة #المدرج_الأصفر والمتمثلة في دخول المشجعين الذين يرتدون قميص الفريق الأساسي الذي أنتجته شركة نيو بالانس مدرجات الدرجة الثانية بشكل مجاني طوال مباريات الفريق المحلية هذا الموسم، رغبة في خلق مدرج أصفر في مباريات الفريق في زعبيل. pic.twitter.com/FJ1f2rlCM1— Al Wasl SC (@AlWaslSC) December 2, 2018
Meanwhile, coach Fabio Viviani has told his Ittihad Kalba charges they must not take anything for granted when they look to arrest their slump against bottom-placed Dibba Al Fujairah.
The yo-yo club’s seven-match winless run has seen them drop down to ninth in the table, just four points above the relegation zone. This is a better state of affairs than the sorry visitors to Ittihad Kalba Stadium, who have won just one of their 11 fixtures.
“We have a strong and difficult game against Dibba,” said ex-AC Milan midfielder Viviani.
“Most teams in the league are close in both points and levels of performance. The game will not be as easy as some think.
“We should focus on the game and not pay attention to the difference in the table.”
The night’s final match sees Al Wahda’s temporary boss Al Hay Juma look to continue his winning start when undefeated Sharjah come to the capital.
Juma beat Ajman 2-1 last week in his first match since Laurentiu Reghecampf was dismissed after five winless matches.