Omar Abdulrahman shows flickers of former brilliance during first Al Jazira start

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Omar Abdulrahman (c) (Twitter/@UAFAAC).

UAE superstar Omar Abdulrahman showed flickers of brilliance during his first competitive start in almost a year when new employers Al Jazira defeated Oman’s Al Nasr Salalah 3-1 (4-1 on aggregate) and cruised into the Arab Club Champions Cup’s round of 16.

Abdulrahman, 28, had last appeared from kick-off on October 20, 2018 when he suffered extensive knee damage playing for Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal at Al Shabab. His rehabilitation took a major step forward at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium on Monday night.

Here is a deeper look into how the 2016 AFC Player of the Year got on:

30-SECOND REPORT

The Pride of Abu Dhabi came into the contest as hot favourites thanks to last week’s 1-0 first-leg victory at Al Saada Stadium.

Young UAE call-up Zayed Al Ameri got the only goal on that day – and he got two more in the capital. He slid in a seventh-minute opener after some amateurish Al Nasr defending, then later delicately chipped in on 67 minutes in a move instigated by Amoory’s swiftly taken free-kick.

These strikes sandwiched visiting forward Mohamed Khabib’s first-half injury time one-on-one that gave Nasr some belief. This would be definitively snubbed out on 82 minutes when Moroccan forward Mourad Batna lashed home a sensational dead ball from an acute angle to make it 3-1 on the night and 4-1 on aggregate.

The draw for the next round is set to be held on October 8.

GOT RIGHT

Going up through the gears: This was just a second appearance in black and white for Amoory since his shock summer arrival.

The former Al Ain idol logged 78 minutes of action, before being removed for great friend Mohammed Fawzi. This followed last week’s 14-minute cameo in Jazira’s 2-0 victory against Al Dhafra on opening night in the Arabian Gulf League, plus dabbles of action for the UAE versus Sri Lanka and Malaysia.

The ingenuity of old witnessed him take a quick free-kick to Batna, whose cross eventually fell to Al Ameri to make it 2-1. He also exhibited encouraging durability to recover when Slovenia anchor man Rok Elsner barrelled into him on 46 minutes and picked up a booking.

GOT WRONG

Doing too much: The 4-2-3-1 formation utilised by coach Jurgen Streppel granted Amoory freedom to flit across the front line.

This, however, did not work effectively on Monday. Their new star player’s lack of fixed position hindered several promising moves, a situation not helped by a clear – and understandable – lack of peak match fitness.

VERDICT

For Amoory, just being fit enough to feature from the off was a boon.

Fleeting moments, rather than sustained genius, defined him against the Oman Professional League’s runners-up. A lack of rhythm was to blame, this time.

Jazira must hope their huge investment will start coming up trumps in the near future.

RATING: 6/10

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Arabian Gulf League: Ivan Leko is a relieved man after memorable Al Ain top-flight debut

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Ivan Leko (Al Ain).

Victory was all that mattered for relieved Al Ain boss Ivan Leko after a dramatic opening Arabian Gulf League victory against Ittihad Kalba.

Utility defender Saeed Juma, 21, struck a deflected first senior goal in the 96th minute at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium to secure Friday’s memorable 3-2 triumph.

This marked some introduction for Leko, hired this summer by the UAE’s most-decorated club after a trophy laden two-year stint at Belgium’s Club Brugge.

The ex-Croatia midfielder said: “I would like to congratulate the players on the fighting spirit they showed from the beginning to the end of the game and they know very well what is required. I would also like to congratulate Kalba.

“The most important fact from the day is that we claimed all three points.”

The Boss next visit Al Wasl on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Al Jazira head coach Jurgen Streppel heaped praise on his players as they opened their top-flight campaign with a 2-0 victory over Al Dhafra.

In Thursday’s clash at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, Mohamed Al Attas opened the scoring in the first-half before Keno’s strike deep into stoppage time secured maximum points.

Streppel was happy with the result and was particularly pleased with his players’ control.

“To start the league with a win is very good. I was happy with how we controlled the first-half as we had a lot of possession and our hard work saw us take the lead,” said the Dutchman during his post-match press conference.

“We were excellent with our set-pieces and that was a big positive. As the match went on, we kept improving although Al Dhafra made it difficult.

“However, we scored again and I must say I was very happy to see our players earn the win.”

Fans also saw Omar Abdulrahman play for the first time after coming on as a second-half substitution while playmaker Khalfan Mubarak and young striker Zayed Al Ameri also came off the bench.

Streppel was happy to give both players minutes, but emphasised the victory was a team effort.

“Khalfan Mubarak, Omar Abdulrahman and Zayed Al Ameri played very well but everyone in the squad deserves credit following our performance today,” he said.

Jazira will aim to protect a 1-0 lead on Monday in the second leg of their Arab Club Champions Cup meeting with Oman’s Al Nasr Salalah.

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AGL Picks of the Week: Rangers legend Madjid Bougherra has managerial bow to cherish

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(Twitter/@Fuj_FC).

Round 1 of the 2019/20 Arabian Gulf League delivered several stellar displays, at both ends of the table.

There was a surprise hero for title-chasers Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club when they dispatched minnows Hatta, while a famous face enjoyed a vitalising start to management on the east coast when Fujairah down Al Wahda 1-0.

Here are Sport360°’s top picks and a talking point:

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Yousif Jaber (Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club)

(Twitter/@Shabab_AlAhliFC).

(Twitter/@Shabab_AlAhliFC).

Statistical anomalies defined an unforgettable 3-0 win for Jaber at promoted Hatta.

The versatile defender now has the record for most club appearances in UAE football since 2008/09’s dawn of professionalism. It is highly unlikely in any of the previous 274 that he got two assists and a goal.

GOAL OF THE WEEK

Fawaz Awana (Bani Yas)

(Twitter/@BaniyasClub).

(Twitter/@BaniyasClub).

Awana exhibited the deftest of right-footed shots to get the scoring under way for the hosts in Thursday’s entertaining 2-2 draw with Ajman.

Awana, on loan to Al Wahda earlier this summer for Asian duty, was a picture of perfect technique when he drove onto a cut-back and curled into the far-left corner.

COACH OF THE WEEK

Madjid Bougherra (Fujairah)

(Twitter/@Fuj_FC).

(Twitter/@Fuj_FC).

What a start to the Algeria and Rangers legend’s senior managerial career in the league.

Hotly tipped Al Wahda were downed 1-0 thanks to a move in which an advancing left-back caused chaos.

There was also the exceptionally bold decision to hook midfielder Fernando Gabriel upon 55 minutes. Big calls – and a big opening result.

TALKING POINTS

Changing face of UAE football

This term’s Under-21 registration loophole had a clear and telling impact.

A total of 15 non-Emirati kids started or came on. Only a handful met last season’s requirement of having a UAE-national mother.

Is this barefaced opportunism from the clubs that will severely hamper Emirati opportunities going forward, or will the UAE gain, hugely, in the long term through naturalisation? We shall see…

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