AGL Picks of the Week: Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba fills his boots and expect a title battle

Matt Jones - Editor 18:50 28/10/2019
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You can't see me: Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba's four goals fired Al Ain to a 7-1 win against Fujairah.

Champions Sharjah remain top of the tree despite losing their 100 per cent start to the Arabian Gulf League season following a spirited fightback against Hatta.

Down 2-0 as the clock hit 90 minutes, the King crowned a magnificent comeback with two stoppage time goals to earn a 2-2 draw. Al Ain and Al Jazira took advantage of a slip from them and Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club, who lost 1-0 at Al Nasr, to go above and draw level with them respectively.

The Boss were in seventh heaven following a 7-1 thrashing of Fujairah, while the Pride of Abu Dhabi beat Ittihad Kalba 3-2.

Elsewhere, Al Wasl relieved the pressure on coach Laurențiu Reghecampf and moved off the bottom of the table with a 3-1 win at Al Dhafra.

Here are our Picks of the Week from round five:

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba (Al Ain)

Hard to argue with this award given the Togo striker struck four times in a 7-1 rout of Fujairah. The hosts actually took the lead through Brazilian forward Jhonnattann just before the break but Laba equalised and led the charge in the second half as the Wolves could not keep the Boss from the door.

He headed in from a corner for his first, swept home a low cross at the near post for number two and then squeezed in another cross from the right at Abdullah Al Tamim’s near post for the third. His hat-trick was neatly provided via a trio of Bandar Al Ahbabi assists (he had four on the night), and the 27-year-old sealed a big win when he back-heeled in Jamal Maroof’s goal-bound effort near the end.

COACH OF THE WEEK

Krunoslav Jurcic (Al Nasr)

The former Bani Yas boss masterminded a 1-0 defeat of Shabab Al Ahli Dubai – inflicting a maiden defeat of the season on one of the teams favourite for the AGL title.

It came in spectacular fashion too, a bicycle kick from former Manchester City and Valencia striker Alvaro Negredo. And it is a result that launches the Blue Wave into sixth place following back-to-back wins, having started the season poorly.

The 49-year-old Croatian has now navigated Nasr to two straight wins having returned to the UAE after orchestrating a revival for the Sky Blues during his 12 months in charge.

GOAL OF THE WEEK

Welliton (Al Wasl)

It’s been a difficult start to the season for the Cheetahs, and a tough beginning in yellow for the former Sharjah and Al Nasr striker. But the Brazilian showed his class with a brace in a maiden win of the season for Wasl in the Western Region.

After Fabio De Lima opened the scoring, the veteran marksman made it 2-0 with a clinical finish across goalkeeper Khalid Al Senani after muscling a defender off the ball.

But he saved the best for last when he raced onto De Lima’s pass; little seemed on as he chased the ball down the right channel of the box, but with the ball running towards the byline he arrowed a sharp shot beyond Al Senani that clipped the post on its way in.

TALKING POINT

With the class of Alvaro Negredo at their disposal, don't rule out Al Nasr from the title race.

With the class of Alvaro Negredo at their disposal, don’t rule out Al Nasr from the title race.

Expect an exciting title race

Every fan of AGL football should be intrigued by the opening few weeks of the season. It offers the possibility for a genuine title race, something that has incredibly not been witnessed since the debut of professionalism in UAE football, the 2008/09 campaign.

That year, Shabab Al Ahli – or just plain old Al Ahli as they were known back then – pipped Jazira to the AGL crown by a point, 55 points to 54. The closest we’ve come to a genuine contest since? Last year’s six-point gap between champions Sharjah and Shabab Al Ahli.

But this year, it really could be different. Sharjah are proving their first triumph in 23 years looks no fluke with a strong start to 2019/20, while Shabab Al Ahli were going well before a maiden defeat to Nasr last weekend.

Al Ain are much improved under Ivan Leko while Jazira are a bonafide contender with Marcel Keizer back in charge. Don’t rule out the chasing pack either. Al Wahda have the class to mount another challenge, while perhaps even Nasr, spearheaded by The Beast’s goals and shrewd Juric now at the helm, could figure.

Unfancied Ajman, Dhafra and Bani Yas will all also feel they shouldn’t be discounted. Whoever is crowned king this season, there’s a sense they’ll really have to earn it.

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