Arabian Gulf League 2015/16 awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi

Sport360 staff 08:23 15/05/2016
Abdulrahman, Cosmin and Esmail.

A stellar season for UAE icon Omar Abdulrahman saw him earn the Emirati Player of the Year title for a second time as the stars of 2015/16 were recognised during Saturday night’s Arabian Gulf League Awards.

Abdulrahman, 24, went home from the event at Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace with the headline prize once again, following his inaugural triumph in 2012/13.

The Al Ain playmaker’s division high 12 assists also secured him a berth in the Best XI, as he gained honours in two of the 11 categories which were otherwise dominated by champions Al Ahli and Al Wahda hot shot Sebastian Tagliabue.

After edging out 23-goal Al Jazira striker – and holder – Ali Mabkhout plus injured Red Knights

defensive midfielder Majed Hassan, ‘Amoory’ declared his love of the sport would mean he would not be weighed down by greater expectations in the future.

“I need to thank the team and the fans for this. This doesn’t put me under any pressure for next year, I simply play football for fun,” said Abdulrahman, after receiving his award from HE Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development. “It was very hard this season, with the league only between two teams – Al Ahli and Al Ain. But next year it will be even harder than this year.”

AGL-Roll-of-Honour

Abdulrahman’s side were dethroned by Ahli, whose seventh top-flight crown came with a record 66-point tally. This historic success was represented at the end-of-season extravaganza.

Current UAE No1 Majed Nasser was given the Goalkeeper of the Year honour, after a steady campaign which featured only excellence between the sticks rather than further episodes of indiscretion. A total of five players – Brazil attacking midfielder Everton Ribeiro, South Korean centre-back Kwon Kyung-won, plus the UAE trio of Nasser, Khamis Esmail and Hassan – featured in the Best XI, while Cosmin Olaroiu collected a second Coach of the Year.

“It’s good that people appreciate my work,” said the Romanian supremo, whose future remains under a cloud. “It’s deserved more for my team, for my players, for my staff. It’s not only me, it’s the work of a team, coordinated by me.

“We try always to do our best to make the team win on a constant basis. We try to win the games, improve day-by-day, game-by-game, training-by-training and then we look for the competitions and then the awards.”

Best-XI

An incredible campaign for Wahda’s Tagliabue gained requisite recognition. The Argentine centre forward, 31, was a key influence behind his club’s run to third place and a play-off berth for the 2017 AFC Champions League. His 25 goals saw him become top scorer for the first time in the Emirates. This achievement helped him beat Ribeiro and 20-goal Al Wasl forward Fabio De Lima to Foreign Player of the Year, and lead the line in the Best XI.

“I am very happy,” said Tagliabue, who signed a two-year contract extension to 2018 in December. “It was three awards for me – top sco-rer, best foreigner and in the team of the year.

“I said before I am very surprised and very happy to win the Foreign Player of the Year. It will encourage me even more for next year. I have to do more and I have to fight more.

“I always promise the team and the fans I will never give less than 100 per cent. I hope next year will be even better than this year, personally and for the group.

“I thank my wife and my family. They are my life and the power of my life in football.

“This is for them. My wife is Mariana and my kids are Facundo and Gustavo – they are my three loves.”

The Clarets also saw a breakthrough season for UAE forward Mohamed Al Akbari, 20, culminate with the U21 Player of the Year selection. Syria forward Omar Khrbin’s nine goals in 12 matches since his January arrival at Al Dhafra made him the Fans’ Player of the Year, while Jazira’s wretched season counted for little as they were nevertheless named Professional Club of the Year.

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Bani Yas keep President's Cup dream alive

Matt Jones - Editor 07:33 14/05/2016
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Australia star Mark Milligan in action.

Bani Yas are still dreaming of hoisting a second President’s Cup aloft after they beat Emirates Club on penalties to reach the semi-finals.

Royston Drenthe, skipper Mohamed Jaber, Mark Milligan and Joaquin Larrivey all netted from 12 yards before the Falcons’ Mohammad Malalla blazed over to send the Sky Blues soaring.

It’s been a miserable season for both teams but the Abu Dhabi outift are at least still in with a chance of salvaging something following Larrivey’s brave early header which was cancelled out in the second half by Rodrigo Pimpao’s fine equaliser as the game went to extra time.

Neither side looked like scoring in the additional 30 minutes so their fate was decided by spot kicks.

Bani Yas stopper Mohsin Mohamed brilliantly beat away the opening penalty from Renan Garcia to set the tone. His team-mates followed suit before Malalla skied high into the sweltering Dubai night.

Bani Yas last lifted the title in 1992 but will face a stern test in the last four against six-time winners and dethroned Arabian Gulf League kings, Al Ain. Al Jazira will face Al Ahli in the other tie.

Bani Yas hero Mohamed was happy to play his part.

“To go to 120 minutes I think maybe we took it by luck,” said the stopper. “My save it was nice and to take the team to the semi-finals, it’s a good thing. If you want to win the cup you have to play the big teams, if you don’t want to play them you can have a rest.”

If Mohamed was the hero, that made Malalla the villain, although he otherwise had a fine game, playing a part in his side’s equaliser.

“We played very well and we tried. It was a matter of luck when it goes to penalties,” he said.

Larrivey gave his side the lead in the 11th minute, nodding in after a brilliant turn and cross from Bandar Al Ahbabi. Emirates threatened after the break with Malalla’s free-kick tipped over by Mohamed, youngster Waleed Ambar flashing a shot across goal while Pimpao whistled another shot just past the post.

The Falcons swooped in the 67th minute, Malalla and Ambar combining well to set up Pimpao whose crisp, precise finish was beyond the dive of Mohamed.

Al Ahbabi’s free-kick was brilliantly tipped round the post by Ali Saqr to keep Emirates alive as the game petered out. For the Sky Blues, a promising season that drifted into mediocrity could yet have a silver lining.

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Ten Cate delights after President's Cup recovery

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Thriller: Al Jazira players celebrate.

Al Jazira boss Henk ten Cate couldn’t believe what he had seen after an epic quarter-final against Sharjah in the President’s Cup.

The Pride of Abu Dhabi triumphed 6-5 on penalties on Thursday after a rollercoaster contest which saw them recover from 2-0 down in normal time and 4-2 in arrears during extra-time.

They were indebted to both Thiago Neves for a superb hat-trick and UAE No. 1 Ali Khaseif’s vital save in the shootout from Bader Abdulrahman.

“This match was exciting and implausible,” said the 61-year-old Dutchman, whose reward is a last-four clash with Arabian Gulf League champions Al Ahli next weekend. “The Jazira players did an exceptional job. The game should be a reference for all regarding the nature of cup games.”

Success in the UAE’s premier cup competition would end a four-year trophy drought for Jazira and partly salvage a dreadful campaign.

Meanwhile, Al Wasl stand-in Salmeen Abdulrahman pointed the finger at the officials after a controversial 4-2 extra-time loss to 2014 winners Al Ain.

Doubles from Omar Abdulrahman and Douglas helped the Boss through, with Ali Salmeen and Caio Canedo’s equalisers ultimately counting for nothing.

The Cheetahs were denied a penalty for left-back Saeed Musabbeh’s handball on 90 minutes, while their centre-back Hassan Zahran was harshly punished for the same offence at the other end two minutes after the restart.

Assistant coach Abdulrahman – standing in for Gabriel Calderon, who is officially on a “two-day vacation” but has been sacked – said: “The two penalties were the turning points. We should have been given a penalty, and they should not.”

For Al Ain, boss Zlatko Dalic was content to tick off another fixture. His side now play Bani Yas.

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