Marcel Keizer was pleased to get off to a winning start in his second spell as Al Jazira coach after beating Khorfakkan as the Arabian Gulf League resumed on Saturday.
Goals from Khalifa Al Hammadi, Ali Mabkhout and Abdullah Ramadan sealed a 3-1 away victory on Saturday in Keizer’s first match in charge since his reappointment last week.
The result moved the Pride of Abu Dhabi fourth in the standings and Keizer was happy with what he saw particularly in the first-half.
“We were playing against a well organised team so we had to be very careful,” said the Dutchman during his post-match press conference.
“We started well and controlled the game by having lots of possession that saw us score two goals. We kept the momentum going in the second-half and although we could have played better, I was happy that we scored another goal and to win the game.”
Despite the positive result, Keizer insists there is no pressure on the team and he is focused on sticking to their principles of playing attractive football.
“I spoke to the players about our principles and all of them understand what they want to do as a team,” he added, having returned to the club following a stint with European heavyweights Sporting Lisbon in Portugal.
“We want to stick to our principles of how we want to play football and try to win as many games as possible. We are not thinking about any silverware yet as it’s still early in the season.”
Keizer also confirmed that Thulani Serero and Sultan Al Ghaferi are set to return to training this week while Khalfan Mubarak, Keno and Mourad Batna are likely to remain sidelined.
Jazira will next be in action on Wednesday when they take on Ismaily in Egypt in the first leg of their last 16 clash in the Mohammed VI Champions Cup.
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Marcel Keizer’s second reign at Al Jazira got off to a winning start, champions Sharjah were sumptuous as they maintained the only 100 per cent record of the new season, while the Beast was monstrous as Al Nasr finally won.
Here’s our take on the weekend’s action from the Arabian Gulf League’s fourth round of action.
THE MIDAS DUTCH
Marcel Keizer 2.0. Jazira’s latest managerial experiment got off to a winning start with the returning Dutchman leading an incredibly young side to an easy 3-1 victory over promoted Khorfakkan.
In truth, the sacking of compatriot Jurgen Streppel was harsh. It is often the case in a sport that mirrors the transient nature of the country itself. But Streppel’s dismissal seemed extreme considering Jazira’s opening three fixtures were a 2-0 win against Al Dhafra, a 3-2 defeat to Al Wahda and a 0-0 draw against Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club – one of the title favourites.
But when the Pride of Abu Dhabi hierarchy made their decision, former charge Keizer was available, and everyone concerned will have been satisfied by what they saw. Keizer’s mentor Henk ten Cate would have been especially pleased with the club’s thriving academy at the heart of all three goals.
Khalifa Al Hammadi, at 20 already a full UAE international, opened the scoring, with Ali Mabkhout making it 2-0, the lethal marksman supplied by Zayed Al Ameri, 22. Egypt-born midfielder Abdullah Ramadan, 21, restored their two-goal cushion after Dodo pulled one back for the home side; he was set up by 18-year-old substitute Ahmed Mahmoud.
With Keizer back at the controls, the Jazira machine is being powered by a wave of exciting, impactful local talent.
HARD TO STOMACH
صور ||مباراة شباب الاهلي 2 و بني ياس 0 - دوري الخليج العربي pic.twitter.com/jPNLkAnKu4— نادي شباب الأهلي (@Shabab_AlAhliFC) October 19, 2019
There was a good reason for getting rid of Leonardo, the undoubtedly brilliant Brazilian who had left a bitter taste in the mouth by the end of his tenure with Al Wahda.
But the decision to jettison the problematic forward might be tinged with regret judging by the contrasting fortunes for his former and current employers over the weekend.
While the Clarets were left crestfallen following a 3-1 defeat at the hands of an Alvaro Negredo-inspired Al Nasr – the Blue Wave earning a maiden win of the season – Leonardo was painting a masterpiece at his new club, Shabab Al Ahli.
Leonardo had become a nauseating problem the higher-ups at Al Nahyan Stadium could no longer stomach. Those at Rashid Stadium are finding a player much more palatable, the 27-year-old dishing up both goals in a 2-0 triumph over Bani Yas. He scored the first and supplied the second for Davide Mariani.
It’s a feast at the top of the table for Shabab, but famine for Wahda who are feeding off scraps near the bottom.
WASL ARE WALLOWING
Rodolfo Arruabarrena led Al Wasl to third place two seasons ago, but was then sacked following a poor start in 2018/19. After a brief spell in Qatar with Al Rayyan he returned to the UAE when the Shabab Al Ahli job became available.
He led them to the President’s Cup and Arabian Gulf Cup double, while replacement Laurentiu Reghecampf has led the Cheetahs to the bottom of the AGL table after four games.
Wasl were woeful on Saturday night during a meek 5-1 defeat by champions Sharjah, which was emphatic as the scoreline suggests.
How Wasl fans must wish they could turn the clocks back. It is now surely a question of when, not if, the club calls time on Reghecampf’s reign.
A nation expects whenever celebrated playmaker Omar Abdulrahman takes to the pitch.
But Tuesday’s first UAE start in a year after his serious knee injury ended in a momentum-sapping defeat to Thailand in World Cup 2022 qualifying.
An undercooked Amoory was inconsequential in a second-round clash from which Muangthong United forward Teerasil Dangda and Whites record-breaker Ali Mabkhout traded first half headers, before Chiangrai United teenager Ekanit Panya earned a 2-1 win in the 51st minute.
On target: 2
Off target: 4
Yellow cards: 2
Bert van Marwijk’s men travelled to Thailand eager to build on a 100-per-cent start from two second-round matches.
Vanquished opponents Malaysia and Indonesia, however, were not even close to the level expected from Tuesday’s hosts. And this state of play proved true at Thammasat Stadium.
The War Elephants – who also hit the woodwork twice – went ahead when Panya crossed to Dangda, who moved onto 45 goals in 102 internationals. Mabkhout would level in first-half injury time from Al Hassan Saleh’s cross, but Panya soon pounced to earn a deserved win.
Killer vision remains: The zip of old is, understandably, not there yet after a recent rehabilitation from another serious knee injury.
But the quality in possession is still there. A ball that intersected centre-back and full-back for Al Wahda winger Khalil Ibrahim was divine, so too the cheek to blast a free-kick from out wide narrowly over.
This was only a second start in eight appearances for club and country this term. Both the UAE and Al Jazira will hope increased physical sharpness brings greater defining moments.
Lasting the pace: Amoory started brightly, dropping deeper into midfield to dictate proceedings.
There were several sharp passes only he could have conceived. But equally, there were numerous plays where an inhibited Amoory cut back rather than racing forward like the days of old.
This left No9 Mabkhout isolated, while also curtailing opportunities to get exciting Al Wasl teenager Ali Saleh involved. By the time Amoory was hooked for fellow former AFC Player of the Year Ahmed Khalil on 72 minutes, he’d long dropped off the radar.
A night that promised so much for player and country turned into a reality check.
Jazira’s glacial approach to reintroducing their stellar summer signing to first-team football made perfect sense after the Thailand meeting. Amoory is not, as we speak, the same vibrant figure that departed the Emirates for boyhood club Al Hilal in August 2018.
The UAE also can have no illusions now about a strenuous route through Group G. Play like this next month in Vietnam and the alarm bells will ring.
Statistics provided by 365scores.com