AGL Picks of the Week: Alternative hat-trick for Bandar Al Ahbabi, Ismail Matar still a UAE option?

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Al Ain (UAE Pro League).

Round 15 of the 2019/20 Arabian Gulf League delivered several stellar displays, at both ends of the table.

Teenage Brazilian centre-back Lucas Pimenta’s 35th-minute header earned Al Wahda a rousing 1-0 win against Al Jazira in the ‘Abu Dhabi Clasico’, while UAE wide-man Bandar Al Ahbabi’s hat-trick of assists helped Al Ain to a thumping 5-0 victory against Al Wasl.

Brazilian centre-midfielder Luiz Antonio’s solitary goal against Al Dhafra made it three wins on the spin for Bani Yas, Cameroon midfielder Sebastien Siani produced an unerring hit to gift Ajman a 1-0 win against slumping Arabian Gulf Cup holders Al Nasr and lowly Fujairah held pacesetters Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club to a goalless stalemate. Champions Sharjah ended a four-match losing streak with a 3-1 triumph against Ittihad Kalba and late goals were shared in the 1-1 basement draw between Hatta and Khor Fakkan.

Here are Sport360°’s top picks and a talking point:

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Bandar Al Ahbabi (Al Ain)

Al Ahbabi is the team-mate all attackers dream of. His combination of raw pace and unflinching accuracy witnessed a trio of assists recorded versus shell-shocked Wasl.

Astoundingly, this doesn’t represent the best haul of a remarkable campaign – four were produced in October’s 7-1 dismantling of Fujairah.

This latest accomplishment moved him onto 10 assists from 12 AGL appearances this term. For context, this is already two more than 2014/15’s high mark of eight.

Omar Abdulrahman’s tally of 16 from 2013/14 remains the pinnacle, with no-one going over 12 in an individual campaign since then. With 11 top-flight fixtures to fulfil this term, history is within Al Ahbabi’s grasp at the division’s 35-goal leading scorers.

Bandar Al Ahbabi (UAE Pro League).

Bandar Al Ahbabi (UAE Pro League).

GOAL OF THE WEEK

Osama Elshaal (Ittihad Kalba)

A new name for Kalba – and AGL – fans to become acquainted with.

The 18-year-old Egyptian’s debut contained a 35-yard thunderbolt versus the holders. He raced onto a loose clearance and let an unstoppable effort fly with the outside of his right boot.

UAE goalkeeper Adel Al Hosani could only helplessly watch. Some introduction.

Osama Elshaal (Twitter/@ittihadkalbafc).

Osama Elshaal (Twitter/@ittihadkalbafc).

COACH OF THE WEEK

Madjid Bougherra (Fujairah)

This is why the Wolves continue to march with Bougherra…

The ex-Algeria and Rangers centre-back was overjoyed to witness his troops shut-out runaway leaders Shabab Al Ahli. This result represented a first clean sheet for the 12th-placed hosts since December 19, plus the first time the Dubai giants had been locked out since October 25.

Fujairah must now build on this moment. Beginning with Friday’s pivotal meeting with last-placed Khor Fakkan.

Madjid Bougherra (Twitter/@Fuj_FC).

Madjid Bougherra (Twitter/@Fuj_FC).

TALKING POINT

Age doesn’t Matar, for Ismail – and maybe the UAE

Ismail Matar put in the kind of timeless performance during Sunday’s derby against Jazira that would make UAE fans – and selectors – misty eyed.

The 36-year-old was instrumental in the ‘No10’ role, outshining opposite number Omar Abdulrahman. This performance, however, was no fluke.

Matar ranks joint sixth for chance creation in 2019/20. His tally of 31 comes from 10 appearances – everyone else in front of him have featured more times.

At a time of transition for the Whites under Ivan Jovanovic, is there still a spot for a wily veteran to knit it all together? Matar was parachuted into the 2019 Asian Cup squad and would, surely, not embarrass himself if he answered his country’s cry for help in March’s World Cup 2022 qualifying double-header.

An 134th international cap may yet beckon…

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