Round 16 of the 2019/20 Arabian Gulf League delivered several stellar displays, at both ends of the table.
A breathtaking 88th-minute winner from second-placed Al Jazira saw them inflict a 2-1 defeat on leaders Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club, while Caio’s goal on his return to Al Ain wearing the colours of champions Sharjah ended in a 1-1 draw. A Sebastian Tagliabue-inspired Al Wahda moved up third with a 3-0 triumph in the derby with Bani Yas and sixth-placed Al Dhafra heaped more misery on sinking Al Nasr with a late 2-1 win.
Algeria and Rangers icon Madjid Bougherra was dismissed in the wake of second-bottom Fujairah’s 2-2 draw with bottom-placed Khor Fakkan, promoted Hatta escaped the drop zone with a 1-0 win at fellow-strugglers Ittihad Kalba and it ended 1-1 between Al Wasl and Ajman.
Here are Sport360°’s top picks and a talking point:
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Sebastian Tagliabue (Al Wahda)
Tagliabue is not even close to being finished.
At 34-years old, his brace versus Bani moved him onto 14 goals for the campaign – only Al Ain’s Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba has more (16). He’s also become only the second-ever player in the history of UAE football to move past 150 goals – at 151, he’s just 15 behind World Cup 1990 icon Fahad Khamees.
The new Emirati citizen remains in fine fettle ahead of March’s probable international debut.
GOAL OF THE WEEK
Khalfan Mubarak (Al Jazira)
This was an exhilarating snap shot of why Al Jazira have been such a frustrating entity in 2019/20.
Omar Abdulrahman’s visionary pass into the channel took the Pride of Abu Dhabi 40 yards up the pitch, Ali Mabkhout then unselfishly laying one across for ex-Al Ahli youngster Mubarak to joyfully lob home a winner of staggering quality.
If this electric play from a squad packed full of attacking talent was repeated on a regular basis, there wouldn’t be a six-point gap to the team they’ve just defeated.
Why can’t they do this more often?
COACH OF THE WEEK
Christos Kontis (Hatta)
The Hatta bench erupted with a mixture of celebration and relief on Thursday night.
Brazilian centre-back Cleylton’s VAR-assisted first-half header earned the spoils in a ‘relegation six-pointer’ at revamped Kalba, sending them out of the drop zone and ending a debilitating eight-game winless AGL run.
This victory may also have been timely. Change can seem alluring to board members left to consider a shocking run of form during a three-week break…
Slowing Shabab Al Ahli provide signs of hope?
A fortnight is a long time in Middle Eastern football.
Shabab Al Ahli resembled uncatchable title winners to be when they downed champions Sharjah 2-1 on January 24. A subsequent goalless draw with struggling Fujairah and a late loss to Jazira has given hope to the chasing pack and, potentially, sewn doubts in the pacesetters’ minds.
Resources will be stretched further now the AFC Champions League has begun. There is also the continued wait for winter buy Pedro Conde to net.
But have the hard yards already been run? A six-point gap is sizable with 10 matches to go.
Al Ain and Sharjah will also face the same Asian distractions, while Jazira blow hot and cold.
Coach Rodolfo Arruabarrena’s reputation as a ‘glorious loser’ at Wasl was distinctly dismissed with last term’s President’s Cup and Arabian Gulf Cup double. He’s also attained glory in the pressured environs of Boca Juniors, previously…
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