Ivan Leko promises thrills when Al Ain meet Al Wasl in our Arabian Gulf League preview

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Ivan Leko (Al Ain).

Al Ain boss Ivan Leko has vowed he will hold nothing back during Thursday’s tantalising Arabian Gulf League meeting with Al Wasl.

Thrills abounded in last week’s opening top-flight weekend when the Boss required a 96th-minute winner to defeat lowly Ittihad Kalba 3-2. It was a different story for Wasl, who played out a goalless Bur Dubai derby with Al Nasr.

“Al Wasl has a number of highly skilled players and a good line of defence,” said ex-Croatia midfielder Leko, who joined in June from Club Brugge. “Confronting such clubs always motivates players to show their best.

“I always prefer the open style of play in football games, because it is the most exciting for fans, commentators, critics and media. Our goal is always to win.”

Injuries mean ex-Al Jazira midfielder Mohamed Jamal and €5.3 million former Al Wasl striker Caio Canedo will, again, be unavailable for the Boss.

Meanwhile, new striker Ricardo Gomes has warned Kalba he is determined to “make history” at champions Sharjah.

Gomes, 27, has four goals in five appearances since a €3m summer move from Partizan Belgrade. The Tigers – who are on a 14-match AGL winless run – are next in the Cape Verde international’s sights.

He said: “Goals give motivation and confidence no matter the opponent. I am here to make history and I want to score many goals.”

Friday’s highlights from round two include an Abu Dhabi derby between Al Wahda and Jazira.

The hosts must rebound from a pitiful 1-0 defeat at Fujairah, while the Pride of Abu Dhabi should hand a first top-flight start to returned UAE superstar Omar Abdulrahman.

Pointless promoted sides Khor Fakkan and Hatta meet on the same night.

ROUND TWO FIXTURES

Thursday

18:30 Ittihad Kalba v Sharjah

18:30 Al Dhafra v Bani Yas

21:15 Ajman v Al Nasr

21:15 Al Wasl v Al Ain

Friday

18:30 Shabab Al Ahli v Fujairah

18:30 Khor Fakkan v Hatta

21:15 Al Wahda v Al Jazira

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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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