Arabian Gulf League: Fresh start at Al Ain receives first proper test against Al Wahda

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Ghazi Fahad (Al Ain).

Al Ain will hope to build on a promising fresh start when they travel to Al Wahda on Saturday in the Arabian Gulf League.

The fourth-placed Boss parted ways, after only five months, with ex-Croatia midfielder Ivan Leko in the wake of last week’s dispiriting 2-1 home loss to mid-table Al Dhafra. Caretaker Ghazi Fahad, however, presided on Monday over an encouraging 2-0 President’s Cup victory against First Division League leaders Dibba Al Hisn.

This result has raised confidence ahead of a trip to Al Nahyan Stadium. Last weekend’s 2-1 triumph at 10-man Ittihad Kalba, sealed with an audacious lob from UAE Under-23 winger Yahya Al Ghassani, snapped a three-match winless top-flight run for the sixth-placed Clarets.

“I have great appreciation for the board of directors’ confidence and trust in me to lead the team, even if it is just temporary,” said Al Ain’s usual Under-21 custodian. “This is because Al Ain is one of the largest clubs in Asia and runner-up for the 2018 FIFA Club World Cup.

“Certainly, training a team of this size is an honour. The assignment is very important, but I grew up in this great club and I will remain under their instruction in any role the officials deem appropriate.

“When you lead the team in the current circumstances, the challenge is changing their minds. We had meetings with the players and everyone showed their firm desire to change the image that the team showed.”

Fans in attendance who have bought tickets through to three or more 2019/20 AGL games at the Al Nahyan will be eligible for the raffle to win a brand-new Audi A3.

This is one of 26 cars that will be distributed throughout the remainder of the campaign.

There will also be a dedicated Fan Zone at the stadium pre-match, boasting a range of fun activities.

Elsewhere, champions Sharjah will need to shake off some uncertain form when they make the long trip to Dhafra.

The unbeaten leaders’ 1-1 draw at floundering Ajman was their second stalemate in their last three league run-outs. They also required penalties on Monday to defeat promoted Hatta in the Cup’s round of 16.

These travails have worried boss Abdulaziz Al Anbari.

He said: “Injuries in this period have disturbed us and we hope to pass the next two games before the winter stoppage.”

Elsewhere on Friday, out-of-form sides Ajman and Hatta lock horns at Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Stadium.

Second-placed Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club welcome Ittihad Kalba in Saturday’s late game, with third-placed Al Jazira travelling across town to Bani Yas earlier on.

Madjid Bougherra’s Fujairah will scrap to stay out of the drop zone when they welcome Alvaro Negredo’s Al Nasr. Promoted Khor Fakkan must aim for a first win, at the 11th attempt, against Al Wasl.

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