Yousef Abdulla could return to the Al Wasl fold for the first time since being injured against Al Ain on the opening day of the Arabian Gulf League season, but impressive young deputy Sultan Al Manthari insists the return of the Cheetahs’ first-choice goalkeeper inspires him.
Al Manthari, 22, has earned rave reviews since filling Abdulla’s gloves, featuring in seven games as Wasl have roared to the top of the AGL as well as occupying top spot in Group B of the Arabian Gulf Cup.
Abdulla might replace his protégé in between the sticks when Wasl host Shabab Al Ahli Dubai tonight, but the youngster feels Abdulla’s return is a chance for him to develop further.
“We thank God very much for the return of the great goalkeeper Yousef Abdulla, who is a great addition and I personally seek to benefit from the experience of Abdulla and Salem Abdulla and learn from them,” said Al Manthari ahead of the game.
“Their presence with me motivates me to provide the best in order to maintain my position in the team and to join the national team in the future.”
Al Wahda coach Laurentiu Reghecampf, meanwhile, insists he will not be taking Sharjah lightly, despite the fact the King are bottom of Group B with just one point and are hovering two points above the AGL relegation zone in 10th place.
Sharjah are unbeaten in their last three league games and drew 3-3 with Shabab Al Ahli in the last round of the cup, having played 72 minutes of the game with 10 men and been 2-0 down at one stage.
“We will play against a strong competitor who has not lost in two games against Al Ain and Al Ahli in the league,” said the Romanian.
“In contrast, we did not win the last Arabian Gulf Cup match against Dibba (Al Fujairah), which gives us the motivation to win.”
Al Jazira are now unbeaten in six games and made it three wins in that period as they romped to a comfortable 3-0 victory over Al Nasr to overtake their opponents at the top of Arabian Gulf Cup Group A on Friday night.
In the absence of a host of international players, Ali Mabkhout opened the scoring in the 20th minute having been called up for the UAE’s two friendlies with Haiti and Uzbekistan but released back to his club in order to continue his return to fitness.
The forward, captaining Jazira on the night, latched on to Romarinho’s defence-splitting through ball and applied a first-touch finish to give the visitors to Ajman’s Shaikh Rashid bin Saeed Stadium the lead last night.
They doubled their advantage five minutes later in identical fashion. Romarinho dropped deep and sent a through-pass to send Sardor Rashidov clear on goal. The Uzbek winger adjusted his body and placed a first-time shot past goalkeeper Mohamed Yousif.
Henk ten Cate withdrew Mabkhout in the 65th minute, introducing young Ahmed Rabeya. And the 22-year-old repaid his manager’s faith with instant impact, converting Rashidov’s cross with his very first touch to complete a comprehensive win.
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