Game Of the Week
Foolad Khuzestan 0-2 Persepolis
A crisis-hit Persepolis travelled to Ahvaz in South West of Iran, to face a tough challenge against Foolad. This game was a battle between the two Croatian managers in the Persian Gulf Pro League. Branko Ivankovic’s Persepolis were still without a win and at the foot of the table. Meanwhile, Dragan Skocic hadn’t enjoyed the best of starts with Foolad, only 3 points and like their opponents, looking for their first win of the season. Both teams motivated to end their winless run and kick start their season.
The visitors started the game with intent, and their poor results this season didn’t put them off their usual attacking and free-flowing football. They threatened the Foolad goal at early stages but the best chance of the game so far fell to the home side. Sharifat’s cross from the right, and yet another wrong decision to come off his line by Persepolis keeper – Sosha Makani – allowed Hossein Ebrahimi to head the ball into what looked like to be an empty net, before a goal line clearance by Ramin Rezaeian. It was a good piece of defending by Rezaeian who is sometimes criticised for the defensive phase of his game.
Second half started with both teams pushing to break the deadlock. As Foolad were in possession, Omid Alishah stole the ball smartly from the Foolad midfielders and set up a counter, he ran into the heart of Foolad defence with pace before sending a through ball to Taremi who expertly put himself between the defender and the ball, and drew a foul from Foolad’s young defender, Yousef Vakia, for a penalty. Rezaeian stepped up confidently to take the penalty, but Alireza Salimi denied him with a fantastic save to keep the scores level. As Salimi had sent the ball for a corner, Ahmadzadeh sent the corner ball to the front post and after a bit of chaos, the ball fell to the feet of Taremi who made no mistake tapping the ball into the net as the players and fans were ecstatic. Foolad tried to react to this and score an equaliser, but they were caught on the counter on 57th minute after Taremi’s pass found Alishah as he entered the box, Alishah turned the Foolad defender but his shot hit the post but Taremi was on hand again to score the rebound and double their lead.
The latter stages of the game saw both teams with chances but no goals were scored as the game ended 2-0 to Persepolis. This was a precious win for the Reds as they see climb up the table. A clean sheet for one of the shakiest defences in the league will surely please Ivankovic. Foolad, however, continue their disappointing start and they take Persepolis’ place at the bottom of the league. They need to galvanise themselves and start picking up more points before falling behind from the rest of the teams.
Rest Of The Games:
Ehsan Hajsafi was named Man of The Match as his two late goals, earned Sepahan a valuable 3 points in a top-of-the-league clash against Saipa. This 2-0 win cements Sepahan’s place at the top of the table as they now have to deal with the departure of Hajsafi who joined FSV Frankfurt in Germany.
Tractor Sazi’s slow start to the season continued after they were held to a 0-0 draw at home against Esteghlal Khuzestan. They now have only one win in 5 games as pressure mounts on manager Toni Oliveira.
One of the fastest goals this season was scored by Shahram Goudarzi after he scored within the first minute for Gostaresh against Malavan. This was the only goal of the game as Gostaresh went on to record a 1-0 win away from home.
Newly promoted Esteghlal Ahvaz travelled to Esfahan to play an on-form Zob Ahan side. They managed to go back to Ahvaz with a point after a resolute performance as they held the home side to a 0-0 draw. Zob Ahan will be disappointed with this draw after two back to back wins in their last two games.
Saba recorded their first win of the season as they hosted Padideh. A late goal from Abolfazl Ebrahimi gave Ali Daei’s men a 1-0 victory while Padideh go back to Mashhad empty handed and disappointed conceding late goal.
Siah Jamegan began life without Rasoul Khatibi emphatically against Rah Ahan. Veteran striker, Gholamreza Enayati, gave them a 1-0 victory with a second half penalty. New manager, Saeid Ramezani, will be pleased with this start as he’ll hope for similar results in the coming weeks.
*The ALJ League (“Dawry” means League in English) saw 21 goals scored this week, 9 more than a drab outing from the clubs 7 days ago.
Game of the Week
Al-Nassr 2-2 Al-Qadisiyah
The ALJ League Champions Al-Nassr Riyadh are currently mired in a dire situation, where they have only won once this season, competitively, against Al-Mojzel in the Crown Prince Cup. A 5-0 win was enough to ease them past into the next round, but with Al-Mojzel a lower division side the domination was expected in this respect.
After failing to score against Hajer in a 0-0 draw last week Al-Nassr finally got into full swing as the underrated Adrian Miezerjewski bagged an early brace through a wonderfully taken free-kick and a header. Al-Nassr took control of the proceedings only to be stopped by Faisal Masrahi, who has made a good start to his season after keeping a clean sheet against Al-Faisaly last week.
Al-Qadisiyah finally hit their stride towards the 55th minute, however on-form Hector Ramos spurned a chance to bring the score back to 2-1 as he hit the post during a 1 v 1 with the opposition goalkeeper Hussein Shaian; the latter who has been called up to the Saudi Arabian National Team under the guidance of Bert van Marwijk.
Hussein Shaian then did well to save once again with Mutab Al-Najrani coming close, however Al-Najrani came back with bite never seen before in the space of 25 minutes. Mutab Al-Najrani, the man who wore #70; the same number the infamous Mohammad Jahfali wore when he scored the 120th minute equaliser against Al-Nassr in the Saudi King Cup Final earlier this year.
A nimble runner, more than decent dribbler and surprisingly good at fighting for headers (177 cm tall), he had all the tools to punish Al-Nassr who swtiched off towards the depths of the second half. First, capitalising on a mistake from Hussein Shaian (the irony) before shooting at the post in the 6th minute of added time for the ball to bounce in to the shock of the Middle Eastern football faithful: doing a Jahfali. Newly promoted Al-Qadisiyah did the impossible, and drew 2-2 with Al-Nassr.
Al-Qadisiyah fans began chanting “Jahfali! Jahfali! Jahfali!”
Doing a ‘Jahfali’: (Verb) scoring an equaliser in injury time.
“Insert Player Name” ‘Jahfal-hom’: (Verb) “insert player name” scores an equaliser in injury time.
There is no joke in the situation of Jahfali, as one Saudi fan says: “Jahfali is not merely a player, but now a phrase indicating late, heartbreaking equalisers.”
Rest of the Games:
Al-Ahli Jeddah returned to their best with a 4-0 drubbing of hopeless Al-Khaleej, who have now conceded 6 in 2 and are yet to gain a point this season. Salman Al-Moasher was definitely the star, with 3 direct assists and 1 pass that created an assist. He was a creative hub for them through his movement from the left side of the pitch towards the centre, and Taisir Al-Jassim (and Al-Ahli as a whole) benefited from the added options in midfield. Omar Al-Somah grabbed his first goal of the season.
Rivals Al-Ittihad Jeddah left it late against Al-Ra’ed with two goals in the last 10 minutes of the game to keep their season at a 100% record. Al-Ra’ed, whose manager Abdulqader Al-Omrani is now the first manager to be relieved of his duties in the ALJ 2015-16, were no match for the team now managed by Lazlo Boloni and now brought back to life after a series of financial irregularities in the past few seasons. Abdulrahman Al-Ghamdi and Mukhtar Fallatah helped Al-Ittihad to a 2-0 victory.
Hajer failed to push their luck and avoid defeat as Uruguayan Mauricio Affonso scored his first goal for Al-Shabab thus seeing the latter cruise to a 2-1 win in front of 684 fans. Hassan Muath Fallatah, the right back called up to the Saudi Arabian National Team and also on the verge of a move to Jeddah-based Al-Ahli earlier this summer, scored his first of the season and now stands at 1 goal and 1 assist.
If there is to be a shock this season, it is certainly Al-Taawon who came back in injury time to flip the score to 2-1 against Al-Faisaly, in injury time. The battle of the influx of Syrians in the ALJ League – now seeing Mahmoud Al-Maowas at Al-Faisaly – was there once again, this time the creative Jehad Al-Hussein against the promising Mahmoud Al-Maowas. Al-Maowas scored his first goal through a penalty, however Jehad Al-Hussein got the last laugh via an assist for Aloo Efoulo, who then went on to assist Machado for the winner.
The battle of the Elton/Ailton’s in Al-Fateh and Al-Hilal. Elton Jose, the ALJ League veteran, cancelled out Ailton Almeida’s goal that opened the game. Ailton Almeida now sees himself on 3 goals for Al-Hilal after scoring against Al-Wahda and Lekhwiya in the space of a week, proving himself as the hard worker and brilliant striker that Al-Hilal needed to cope with the loss of Nasser Al-Shamrani and the mysterious case of Georgios Samaras. Carlos Eduardo bagged the winner once again, with his goals all helping Al-Hilal to important wins. 1) Saudi Super Cup win was due to Eduardo’s goal 2) Al-Hilal defeated Lekhwiya 4-1 with Eduardo scoring 2 goals to effectively eliminate Lekhwiya 3) Helping Al-Hilal to 3 important points in a 2-1 win against Al-Fateh.
Finally, newly-promoted Al-Wahda scored a late equaliser through foreigner Zuheir Al-Dawadi to avoid defeat against Najran, drawing 1-1 in the process. Najran’s Wissam Wahib scored once again after doing the same against Jeddah giants Al-Ittihad a week ago.
The unorthodox tournament in the Arabian Gulf Cup that is common across the Middle East – usually pitting the top tier clubs in a weird form of tournament that counts for nothing – is actually a second tier cup competition in the UAE. The name is pretty misleading, though.
Two groups of 7, with the top two of each group qualifying for the semi-final. Al-Wasl began their journey with a 2-0 win over Al-Shaab after Edgar Bruno bagged his first ever goal for the club. Fujairah came back from the 8-1 drubbing against Al-Ahli by holding Al-Wahda to a draw away from home (3-3) via Hassan Maatouk and Patrick Friday Eze (2). Sebastian Tagliablue is also another man on hot form, sneaking in the second hat-trick of the season. Two red cards were including in this roller coaster of a match.
Nilmar shut his critics up with a late winner against Baniyas to secure a 1-0 scoreline for Al-Nasr, just an hour after former Manchester City striker Jo scored his first goal for Al-Shabab in a hard fought 3-2 win over Dibba, who are no pushovers under Theo Bucker despite their 4-0 loss to Al-Wahda last week in league play.
Al-Jazira and Al-Ain played out a 2-2 draw in front of no one – literally – as an atrocious number of fans deserted the 42,056 seater Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium. Thiago Neves is on scoring form once again, while Ryan Babel added his name to the scoresheet through a penalty.