Sharjah sent out an ominous message to the opposition when their quartet of fearsome foreigners, led by a ‘perfect’ hat-trick from new boy Ricardo Gomes, were unleashed in unison for the first time in 2019/20 and Ajman were summarily thumped 5-0.
Saturday’s one-sided Arabian Gulf Cup contest at Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Stadium witnessed Cape Verde winger Ryan Mendes crash in an unstoppable 24th-minute free-kick off the crossbar, €3 million ex- Partizan Belgrade striker Gomes score with both feet and his head plus reigning Best Foreign Player Igor Coronado come off the substitute’s bench to delicately chip home. The biggest boost, however, for the Arabian Gulf League holders was the return of dynamic midfielder Otabek Shukurov from March’s fractured leg suffered with Uzbekistan.
“Ajman team is a respectable team and offers good performances,” said boss Abdulaziz Al Anbari, whose side’s opening points sent them into the quarter-final qualification spots at the halfway stage in Group B and provided a morale boost for Saturday’s Arabian Gulf Super Cup showdown with Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club.
“We played the game of Bani Yas with most of our key elements. We tried to do this versus Al Wahda, but injuries of Ryan [Mendes] and Igor [Coronado] did not allow us.
Shabab Al Ahli have been the form team of 2019, finishing up with deserved AG Cup and President’s Cup triumphs. They are expected to provide the sternest challenge for the King’s top-flight crown.
“The Arabian Gulf Super Cup is a showpiece match and we face one of the best teams, with a selection of stars,” said Al Anbari. “We also have good players and we will prepare them to be in the best state.”
Tickets for Saturday’s AG Super Cup at Al Nasr’s Al Maktoum Stadium can be purchased from dubai.platinumlist.net.
The depth of two UAE heavyweights’ squads will be tested on Friday when Al Jazira host Al Ain in the Arabian Gulf Cup.
International football has decimated both rosters ahead of the clash at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium. Nearly half of the 26-man UAE squad is taken from their ranks (eight from Jazira, four from Al Ain), while the Pride of Abu Dhabi are also without South Africa midfielder Thulani Sereo and Togo striker Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba is missing for the visitors.
Victory at the halfway point in Group A will see Jurgen Streppel’s Jazira close on a quarter-final berth, while Al Ain want a first win.
Elsewhere in the pool, Al Dhafra are searching to maintain their 100-per-cent record when promoted Khor Fakkan visit. There is a Dubai derby on Saturday when leaders Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club take the short trip to Al Nasr.
In Group B, Al Wahda will aim to make it nine points from nine and guarantee advancement when they host Bani Yas on Saturday.
On the same night, pointless Arabian Gulf League champions Sharjah visit Ajman. On Friday, Fujairah desire a first win at Al Wasl.
A youthful UAE team land in Malaysia on Wednesday as preparations for their opening World Cup 2022 qualifier amplify.
Ex-Netherlands boss Bert van Marwijk enacted a bold generational change for last week’s opening friendly wins against Dominican Republic (4-0) and Sri Lanka (5-1) in Bahrain. There was also the welcome return of a familiar – and celebrated – face in Omar Abdulrahman.
Here, we analyse how the Whites are shaping up ahead of September 10’s clash at the 87,411-capacity Bukit Jalil National Stadium:
RISE OF THE ‘SHABAB’
Winds of change have, belatedly, blown away the dust that clogged Edgardo Bauza and Alberto Zaccheroni’s failed reigns.
Through a combination of choice and necessity, more than a third of beaten World Cup 2010 finalist Van Marwijk’s travelling squad (9/26) are aged 23 and under.
From this ‘shabab’ (youth in Arabic), some starlets shine brighter than others.
Al Jazira defenders Khalifa Al Hammadi and Mohammed Al Attas should provide the bedrock to any future success. Then, there is rousing Al Wasl forward Ali Saleh.
The superb goal on his first start against Sri Lanka showed why the 19-year-old is so highly spoken of.
A group is being formed that will, hopefully, carry the UAE through the long AFC process and onto a second-ever qualification.
After 315 days, one missed Asian Cup and an acrimonious departure for Al Jazira from Al Hilal, Amoory is back.
The 2016 AFC Player of the Year emerged as a second-half substitute in Saturday’s 5-1 dismantling of minnows Sri Lanka.
Full recovery from October 2018’s devastating knee injury is paramount. Deducing whether this includes being ready to start in Malaysia is Van Marwijk’s defining task ahead of next Tuesday.
In the fruitless 2018 process, Amoory got six assists in a 10-0 home thrashing of the same opponent and then scored in a 2-1 away win.
His class and know-how will be key at a bear-pit Bukit Jalil. Another serious setback, however, could end UAE hopes in the first game…