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Al-Ain top, Al-Jazeera, Mabkhut back on track: 5 things learned from UAE Pro League matchweek 6
ABU DHABI: Two thrilling derbies, late goals and surprises marked the UAE’s Pro League matchweek six as Al-Ain continued to lead the standings with just four points separating them from Al -Nasr in sixth position.
1. Ajman high flight down inconsistent Sharjah
In 2009-10, Ajman made the UAE Pro League history books for all the wrong reasons with a record that remains standing over a decade later as they finished the season at the last. place with only eight points.
There have been several ups and downs since then, but on Wednesday the Oranges celebrated a milestone after beating neighbors Sharjah 1-0 to move up to fourth in the standings with 11 points, already improving that dismal record by just six games in the 2021-22 season.
In his first season in the post-Ayman El-Ramadi era, the seasoned Egyptian tactician, who was a fan favorite at the club, is quickly becoming a distant memory. Serbian coach Goran Tufegdzic, himself a league veteran having previously managed four different Emirati clubs, is making his mark on the club at this early stage in the proceedings.
Ajman’s third win in six games came at the expense of a Sharjah side struggling for form and unable to replace the influence of Brazilian playmaker Bernard, the former Everton man serving a suspension of a match after being sent off in the previous match.
Fans of the 2018-19 Champions are living a roller coaster ride with calls for the dismissal of club legend Abdulaziz Al-Anbari resonating after their AFC Champions League exit to Al-Wahda and league losses to rivals Shabab Al-Ahli and Ajman.
Three trotting wins to start the season and a famous comeback to beat defending champions Al-Jazeera saw Al-Anbari hailed as a local genius. The final rule on his legacy may have to wait until the end of the current campaign, with Sharjah sitting third in the table, just two points off the top spot.
2. Abu Dhabi rivals remain unbeaten after thrilling derby
The pick of midweek games came to Garden City as home side Al-Ain maintained their grip on the top of the standings with a 1-1 draw against rivals Al-Wahda on Wednesday.
Al-Ain’s two imports from the Moroccan league, Sofiane Rahimi and Kodjo Laba, combined to give the 13-time champions the advantage halfway through the second half. This time around, the Togolese shooter turned into a creator, dribbling to the right and preparing Rahimi to score his second UAE Pro League goal.
The large crowd at Hazza bin Zayed stadium had already started to celebrate the fun of the derby when Ivorian defender Kouame Autone knocked Al-Wahda’s Omar Khribin into the box in added time as the Syrian stepped up to convert the penalty resulting and save his undefeated team. save in the campaign.
The two Abu Dhabi teams remain unbeaten in the league this season, but the difference could not be more striking, with Al-Ain leading the standings with 14 points, while Al-Wahda languishes in eighth place after five. Draws in a row, having only beaten newly promoted Al-Urooba on the opening weekend.
Henk ten Cate’s men’s run of results prompted the club’s board to take a late step into the transfer market, signing flamboyant winger Fabio Martins from the Portuguese side of Braga, the 28-year-old. having impressed in the Saudi Pro League while on loan at Al-Shabab last quarter.
Martins made his derby debut soon after arriving in the country and seemed to need more time with his teammates to adjust to his new surroundings.
3. Tagliabue continues to prove he still has it
In a season where controversy on and off the pitch has been a mainstay for Al-Nasr, veteran striker Sebastian Tagliabue has been a rare light at Al-Maktoum Stadium. The 36-year-old proved his worth again on Wednesday as Al-Nasr came back from two goals to save a point against Baniyas.
The UAE’s Argentina international’s fifth campaign goal was also his 168th in the UAE Pro League, coming close to seven goals off the record 175 goals for all-time top scorer Zuhair Bakheet, and remaining six behind the peak of the Pro League era. Al-Jazeera sniper Ali Mabkhout.
The 2-2 draw means Al-Nasr sits sixth in the table, four more points and one point ahead of rivals Al-Wasl, while last season’s runners-up Baniyas failed. failed to add to their lone victory this campaign, ending up in 10th place, just two points from the drop zone.
4. Al-Jazeera bounces in style
It might just have been a 1-0 win over modest Al-Urooba, but the game at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium never looked doubtful as Al-Jazeera dominated from start to finish, missing out. several occasions before Mabkhout won and converted a penalty 20 minutes from time.
Reeling from a 2-1 loss to Sharjah the week before, coach Marcel Keizer’s men were back at their best, playing smooth attacking football and creating plenty of chances. Only a resilient defense from the opposing team and a lack of focus from local attackers at crucial times prevented a beating in the capital.
The key to Abu Dhabi pride is that Mabkhut is regaining his best scorer form. It might have been a penalty, but Tuesday’s winner was the forward’s third in as many games, failing to find the back of the net in his first three league outings. The No.7 is back, removing any doubts, and back on track is also his team’s title defense as they head into the next matchweek one point behind leaders Al-Ain.
5. Dubai Derby victory highlights Al-Wasl’s new identity
The first of two UAE Pro League derbies this week took place in Dubai with Al-Wasl welcoming his neighbors Shabab Al-Ahli to the Zabeel Stadium and leaving with a precious victory, their first since winning the first day in Baniyas.
Long reliant on their Brazilian-born trio of Fabio Lima, Caio Canedo and Ronald Mendes and playing their best football under Argentina boss Rodolfo Arruabarrena, Al-Wasl was a team in transition over the past three seasons, Canedo and Mendes leaving and a raft of unimpressive new recruits, leaving the now naturalized Lima to carry the burden alongside local talents Ali Saleh and Ali Salmin. But ultimately, things seem to be changing in Bur Dubai.
Brazilian coach Odair Hellmann has reinvented the squad as a counter-attacking unit, with Uruguayan’s summer signing Michel Araujo playing a key role, his left-footed strike beating Majed Nasser to win the derby for Al -Wasl. And while they still sit in seventh place with nine points, the momentum builds up with a three-game unbeaten streak. It remains to be seen whether this victory will be a defining moment for the Cheetahs season or another false dawn.