Round 13 of the 2019/20 Arabian Gulf League delivered several stellar displays, at both ends of the table.
Here are Sport360°’s top picks and a talking point:
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Ahmed Khalil (Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club)
A perfect retort to voluble criticism was delivered by the defiant Khalil this weekend.
Friday’s summit clash against Sharjah was going the way of the second-placed holders, at 2-1, before Rodolfo Arruabarrena looked to his substitutes’ bench. Fast forward 19 minutes and Khalil had twice nervelessly converted from the penalty spot amid a cauldron atmosphere at Rashid Stadium, even winning the second of these himself to seal a memorable 3-2 triumph.
That’s now an eight-point gap at the halfway stage, while Khalil moves onto a commendable eight goals in 12 AGL run-outs from an injury hampered campaign. Little wonder the celebrations were so impassioned and sustained.
GOAL OF THE WEEK
Fernando Gabriel (Fujairah)
Danger looms when Gabriel stands over a dead ball.
The Brazilian added another outstanding free-kick to his extensive collection at the weekend when lowly Fujairah went down 3-1 at on-song Al Dhafra. Gravitas was added to his latest effort from 25-30 yards out purely because of the man he beat – Khalid Al Senani has, unquestionably, been the division’s elite shot stopper in 2019/20.
If only the Wolves had more players to match the 31-year-old midfielder’s quality. He has been sorely missed since December 11’s last appearance – where he also scored.
COACH OF THE WEEK
Winfried Schafer (Bani Yas)
The German helped Bani Yas gatecrash Al Nasr’s party.
The Blue Wave faithful headed to Al Maktoum Stadium expecting a result worthy of last weekend’s epic Arabian Gulf Cup final triumph versus Shabab Al Ahli. Brazilian midfielder Luiz Antonio’s deflected goal instead earned the depleted visitors – who played a foreigner light as they await the loan arrival of Atletico Goianiense attacker Ze Roberto – a cherished 1-0 win.
This result hurt Nasr’s title ambitions and snapped their three-match losing run. It may also have eased worries in the Bani Yas boardroom…
Keizer return continues to blow cold
Fanfare greeted a hero’s hallowed return this winter when Marcel Keizer turned up for a second stint, within a year, at Al Jazira.
Reality, though, has been far-less kind. Thursday’s 1-1 draw at Ajman – who played with 10 men for the entire second half because of wild centre-back Hassan Zahran’s dismissal – witnessed a stacked side throw away yet more points.
2016 AFC Player of the Year Omar Abdulrahman was wayward, Ali Mabkhout starved of genuine chances beyond his penalty-kick and inverted wingers Keno and Mourad Batna kept checking back into trouble. There was little fluency on show.
Mitigation is provided by the late return of five UAE youngsters from the AFC U-23 Championship in Thailand.
But is a tougher hand required to meld these sublime footballers together, or is the same message falling on deaf ears second time around?
Keizer had left an undefeated side in November 2018, before winning the cup double in Portugal with Sporting Lisbon. The ex-Ajax tactician does not look likely to be celebrating any silverware this term, despite the rich talent available.
Jazira are now eight points off the pace in fourth and are winless in two AGL run-outs.
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