Full-back Bandar Al Ahbabi showcased why he is such a valuable asset for the UAE and Al Ain with an influential performance in Wednesday’s 2-2 draw against Ittihad Kalba in the Arabian Gulf League.
Al Ahbabi, 28, drilled a low rebound home once Japan defender Tsukasa Shiotani’s penalty was saved and made the score 1-1. A dangerous cross was then produced by the goal scorer to cause chaos in the visitors’ ranks, from which promising winger Mohamed Khalfan headed in.
Ivory Coast forward Giovanni Sio would complete his brace in first-half injury time to ensure a share of the spoils. This, however, could not prevent Al Ahbabi from becoming our Roger Dubuis Al Ain Player of the Day.
STATISTICS – AL AIN
Possession: 60 per cent
On target: 9
GOT RIGHT – ATTACKING ASSET
The dynamic and effervescent Al Ahbabi has developed into a stand-out full-back for club and country, after a career largely spent further up the pitch.
This attacking pedigree was on show at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium against Kalba as he did his best to stop the Boss’ winless run in all competitions at six matches.
The finish to force in a first top-flight goal from 19 appearances this term deserved high praise. Fine technique was exhibited to find the bottom corner.
An unquenched desire to bomb forward also helped put the Boss into a lead they, ultimately, could not hold on to.
GOT WRONG – NO DEFENSIVE LEADERS
Al Ain’s Achilles heel throughout a dispiriting second half of the season has been their creaking backline.
Whether with veterans like Ismail Ahmed or colts such as Saeed Juma, the goals have kept flying into their net.
Al Ahbabi is an experienced asset, yet defensive diligence isn’t, strictly, his forte. He’s started every fixture since March 30’s 2-1 win against Fujairah, a period in which 17 goals goals have been conceded.
No wonder points are draining away every time under ex-Villarreal tactician Juan Carlos Garrido. This weakness is leaving the attack with far too much to do.
7th min GOAL: Al Ahbabi is wide awake and follows in a penalty stop from Kalba goalkeeper Jamal Ali.
16th min CHANCE: The right-back launches a challenging cross, forcing Kalba’s dawdling defence into several slips that Khalfan will punish to make it 2-1.
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