Round 12 of the 2019/20 Arabian Gulf League delivered several stellar displays, at both ends of the table.
New leaders Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club opened up a timely five-point lead, ahead of a three-week break, thanks to their enlivening comeback to win 2-1 at Al Ain, while depleted champions Sharjah’s troubles extended with a 2-1 loss to youthful Al Wahda. Ex-Spain and Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo’s predatory instincts also helped third-placed Al Nasr to a rousing 2-1 victory at inconsistent Al Jazira.
Madjid Bougherra’s Fujairah stayed out of the relegation zone courtesy of Fahad Sabeel’s deflected 96th-minute free-kick in the epic 1-1 draw against Ajman, allied with promoted Hatta’s capitulation to lose 2-1 versus Al Dhafra. Fellow new boys Khor Fakkan remain bottom – and winless – after they were downed 3-2 by Ittihad Kalba and Al Wasl blasted away Bani Yas to win 5-1 in a fixture from which Fabio De Lima made club history.
Here are Sport360°’s top picks and a talking point:
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Fabio De Lima (Al Wasl)
This was the optimal way to reach a landmark figure.
De Lima’s fine hat-trick (penalty rebound; exquisite touch and lashed finish into the roof of the net; dancing feet and precise low prod) saw the lavishly talented Brazilian forward rocket into three figures for Al Wasl.
From unheralded loan signing in July 2014 to undisputed club icon, it’s been some trip for the, now, 26-year-old. Added poignancy was provided by his new-born son being present at Zabeel Stadium for the first time.
Thursday’s thumping of sinking Bani Yas also made it one loss in the seventh-placed Cheetahs’ last eight top-flight run-outs. The fightback continues.
GOAL OF THE WEEK
Ahmed Khalil (Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club)
Reports of Khalil’s demise were greatly exaggerated, it appears.
The 2015 AFC Player of the Year followed up last weekend’s hat-trick in the 5-0 demolition of Ittihad Kalba with something far-more consequential – and eye-catching. His side were 1-0 down in the intense clash with Al Ain, yet ice rushed through the 28-year-old’s veins when impudently choosing to nonchalantly chip home a 60th-minute penalty.
Pressure, what pressure?
COACH OF THE WEEK
Manolo Jimenez (Al Wahda)
Circumstance is an influential factor in football and Jimenez yielded it to his advantage in the valuable triumph against the King.
A team packed full of youth was present at Sharjah Stadium. Partly through choice, but majorly because of restructuring of a misfiring foreign quartet.
This disparate mix came together and made the most of the continued devastating impact of Shahin Abdulrahman’s and Igor Coronado’s injuries for the hosts.
Long waits and itchy trigger fingers
Welcome relief or an anxious wait? How AGL managers view the next three weeks will, largely, be determined by the fluctuations of the form book.
The temptation to make a change will be felt strongest at Bani Yas (one win in their last five, under Winfried Schafer), rock-bottom Khor Fakkan (already six points from safety under second boss of the season, Goran Tufegdzic) and relegation-threatened Hatta (full points for style under rookie tactician Christos Kontis, few actual points accrued). This uncertain feeling could even be extrapolated to Marcel Keizer’s fitful return at Al Jazira, for whom defeat to Nasr, further, hurt title aspirations.
Rangers legend Bougherra would have been included in this unenviable club, only for Sabeel’s late, late set-piece offering welcome relief for Fujairah. On such moments, seasons – and even nascent managerial careers – can turn.
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