Round 2 of the 2019/20 Arabian Gulf League delivered several stellar displays.
Brazilian playmaker Igor Coronado was at the heart of things when Sharjah kept up their 100-per-cent start away at floundering Ittihad Kalba, while Ivan Leko’s Al Ain struck three times, once again, in their emphatic win at Al Wasl. There was also an early goal-of-the-season contender from UAE midfielder Amer Abdulrahman in Al Jazira’s 3-2 derby loss at Al Wahda.
Here are Sport360°’s top picks and a talking point:
PLAYER OF THE WEEK – IGOR CORONADO (SHARJAH)
Some footballers operate on a different plane.
Coronado ran 30 yards, straight through a stacked Ittihad Kalba defence, to tee up Ricardo Gomes’ opener in a 3-1 win. This was a third assist in two AGL games.
Then came a thunderous 25-yard free-kick to send champions Sharjah on their way.
GOAL OF THE WEEK – AMER ABDULRAHMAN (AL JAZIRA)
It is a crime that a goal of this undeniable quality was rendered utterly inconsequential.
UAE midfielder Amer Abdulrahman produced one of the best volleys you’ll see this term, connecting perfectly with a looped clearance. Al Jazira, however, could not build on this staggering opener and lost 3-2 at Al Wahda.
COACH OF THE WEEK – IVAN LEKO (AL AIN)
After the chaos of the opening Kalba win, came the ominous control of the 3-1 victory at Al Wasl.
Al Ain had to fight back from going behind. But from there, Leko orchestrated a fine display.
His call to bring on goal-scorer Bandar Al Ahbabi was also inspired.
AMOORY’S WAITING GAME
Expectation levels are raised whenever Omar Abdulrahman is involved.
On the early evidence of 2019/20, however, these must be tempered.
Monday’s indifferent first start in almost a year after serious injury went without incident in the Arab Club Champions Cup. In Friday’s 3-2 derby defeat at Al Wahda, Al Jazira’s celebrated second-half substitute had just over 30 touches and did nothing with them.
We expect the world from Amoory. Now, what he most requires is patience.
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
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
18:30 Shabab Al Ahli v Fujairah
18:30 Khor Fakkan v Hatta
21:15 Al Wahda v Al Jazira
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:
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.
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.
⚽️⚽️ Zayed Al Ameri "7, 66"— Al Jazira Club (@AlJazira_uae_EN) September 23, 2019
⚽️ Mourad Batna "82" pic.twitter.com/15Ok5MlPek
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.
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.
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.