Blessed relief for Al Jazira. Okay, so it may only be the Arabian Gulf Cup – UAE football’s third most important competition – but three points of any kind are welcome at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium right now.
Just a second win in five games in all competitions this season was secured against the old enemy of Al Ain last night – the returning Romarinho back from his dalliance with Doha airport officials to set up Salem Al Eedi’s winner.
It was the Pride of Abu Dhabi’s first win since the opening day of the Arabian Gulf League season 22 days ago and both the result and performance restored a bit of pride that has certainly been missing in the early weeks of the campaign.
Henk ten Cate’s side have looked a shadow of the side that stormed to the league title last term but this victory – despite the competition – should instil confidence going forward.
Jazira’s two-game losing streak was gratefully halted – but they were fortuitously gifted the opening goal. Livewire young forward Ahmed Rabeya had earlier shrugged off UAE stalwart Mohanad Salem before stinging the palms of Mohamed Busanda and then wasted a glorious chance when he slid in to meet Mohamed Fawzi’s inviting centre, only to prod wide.
But the talented 22-year- old profited at the third attempt when he beat Busanda to another quality Fawzi delivery and nodded in – although replays suggested the goal was fortunate to be awarded bythe assistant referee as Mohamed Khalfan appeared to clear before the whole ball crossed the line.
Ismail Ahmed had earlier crashed a header against the Jazira crossbar and Ali Khaseif saved smartly from Yousef Ahmed as the visitors began brightly.
The hosts settled eventually and Ali Mabkhout could have doubled the lead before the break but dragged two shots just wide.
The Boss deservedly dragged themselves level six minutes into the second half. Douglas, much derided last season, enjoyed the sound of the vociferous away support chanting his name after he won his side a penalty. The Brazilian initially miss-controlled the pass into him but doggedly chased down Salem Rashid who swiped at thin air and brought him down after the forward nicked the ball away from him. Compatriot Caio calmly slotted in the spot kick to bring the Boss level.
With the way they’ve been playing in recent weeks, Ten Cate may have worried his Jazira side would withdraw but they pushed on and Mabkhout wasted a counter-attack when he went for goal himself and shot wide when Salem Abdulla was free inside the box.
It mattered little as Romarinho emerged from the bench to instantly impact proceedings. The summer arrival had been detained at Doha’s Hamad International Airport after returning to settle a pay dispute with former employers El Jaish on Tuesday – but he winged in to tee up impressive fellow replacement Salem Al Eedi who prodded into the roof of the net to restore Jazira’s lead.
Khaseif punched clear from Douglas’ header late on as the hosts held on, but Ten Cate’s side were worthy winners as they finally produced a performance akin to something resembling champions.
Laurentiu Reghecampf insists Al Wahda’s 5-0 thrashing of Dibba Al Fujairah will have little bearing on their Arabian Gulf Cup encounter Saturday.
The Clarets thumped Dibba on the Arabian Gulf League’s opening day three weeks ago and stand top of the table after three wins, with the Romanian’s reign getting off to a fine start following four games unbeaten in all competitions.
The Clarets drew their opening AG Cup game 1-1 with Shabab Al Ahli Dubai and will be expected to get their maiden win at Fujairah Stadium, but Reghecampf believes Dibba – who reacted to that opening day mauling with back to back victories – will be out for revenge.
“There is no comparison between the match between Dibba in the first round of the league and the match today,” said the new man in charge at Al Nahyan Stadium.
“The game will be difficult and Dibba have the incentive to respond to the loss in the league match, while we seek to continue the series of victories after winning all our previous league games.”
Hungary winger Balazs Dzsudzsak and South Korea defender Rim Chang-woo are on international duty so are absent for Wahda, while defender Salem Sultan misses out through injury.
Elsewhere, Shabab Al Ahli host Sharjah at Rashid Stadium and the King’s coach Jose Peseiro is pleased that his side appear to be taking shape with the completion of their four-man foreign quota recently.
Deals for Brazilian attackers Welliton Vander Vieira were wrapped up at the end of last month, the duo joining Chilean midfielder Cesar Pinares and Australian centre-back Ryan McGowan to complete the four foreign slots.
And Portuguese coach Peseiro says the new recruits have integrated quickly with the rest of the team, although he feels it may be a month before his team reach peak form.
“The foreign players are making a great effort to merge quickly with the team despite their recent presence in the squad, they are doing their utmost to harmonise quickly,” said Peseiro, the former Al Wahda chief.
“I am confident that within a month the team will reach the ideal readiness after completing the integration and harmony between the players and they will have a full understanding of the plans and training.”
Pinares will not feature in Dubai as he is away with the Chile team who beat Ecuador 2-1 yesterday and face Brazil on Wednesday looking to secure a place at next year’s World Cup.
Mohammed Jaber and Mohamed Ibrahim will also not feature as they are on loan from Saturday’s opponents.
In the day’s other game, Al Dhafra travel to promoted Ajman who are winless this season after four defeats in all competitions – scoring just two goals.
But that does not mean the Western Knights will be approaching the match at Shaikh Rashid bin Saeed Stadium believing victory is a given, according to young midfielder Khalaf Al Hosani.
“We will deal with the game seriously and try to win,” said the 21-year-old, who has featured in three of Dhafra’s four games this season.
“Ajman are a good team and their results so far do not serve to do their performances justice. They have good players especially in attack.”
Al Jazira could be without Romarinho for Friday’s Arabian Gulf Cup match against Al Ain after the Brazilian was detained in Qatar on Wednesday with the club threatening to report the case to FIFA if it’s not resolved by end of Thursday.
Reports emerged on social media that Romarinho, 26, was detained at Doha International Airport on Wednesday after travelling to settle payments owed by his former club El Jaish. The Brazilian moved to The Pride of Abu Dhabi this summer on a free transfer following April’s liquidation of El Jaish.
A club source confirmed the attacking winger was stopped in Doha having failed to turn up for training on Wednesday after being given Tuesday off. They are hopeful there is a solution, although they will get FIFA involved if that’s not the case.
“He went to Qatar yesterday (Tuesday) for one day leave and they stopped him today at the airport,” the source said. “But we don’t know the reason why they stopped him. We have given 24 hours to resolve this issue for the authorities. If this is not resolved, we will go up to the highest level in FIFA.”
It’s the latest chapter in a political saga that has been running for almost four months since the UAE and a number of Gulf countries severed ties with Qatar in June.
Surprisingly, Al Jazira head coach Henk Ten Cate seemed unaware of Romarinho’s situation when quizzed during the pre-match press conference but the Dutchman felt sorry for the summer arrival.
“Even if he gets on the flight and gets back, he’s missed two days of training,” said the 62-year-old.
“He’s not going to start. This must have been an emotional thing for this guy. Can you imagine that you’re stuck somewhere and you cannot leave? It’s an emotional issue. I’ll have to speak to him first and see how he feels. I don’t know nothing about this and only in the training session I only knew something about this.
“The focus should lie on the football and concentrate on the football match against Al Ain. For me this is very important. How sorry I feel for Romarinho, my main interest goes to my team.”