Game of the Week
Al-Wahda 2-1 Al-Ain
Jorge Valdivia returned just in time to face his former club Al-Ain, where he enjoyed some of the best moments of his career despite a disappointing ending. After a 2-game ban (a result of pointing the middle finger at fans on his debut) stopped him from influencing the Abu Dhabi Derby between Al-Jazira and Al-Wahda, he certainly impacted the proceedings back at the Nahyan Stadium in the Abu Dhabi ‘Clasico’ against Al-Ain.
Two maestros went up against each other: the teacher and his student. A similar bond between Ronaldinho and Messi. Omar Abdulrahman, a #10 like Valdivia himself, learned from Valdivia while rising through the ranks at Al-Ain. They met once again, only for the former to taste victory.
The possession was all in Al-Ain’s favour to begin with, trying to bring the ball into dangerous positions via their wingers (Rashed Essa and Ryan Babel) who had the propensity to cut inside looking to occupy the spaces Omar Abdulrahman left while dropping deep to help the defensive midfielders.
Al-Wahda’s front line however, came against the run of play. Mohammad Al-Akberi has been on fire with Al-Wahda lately and the youngster proved himself in a big game by exploiting former AFC Player of the Year Nominee Ismail Ahmed to lob the ball towards Sebastian Tagliabue. By the end of the game, he had scored his 10th goal of the season in the space of 6 games.
The second goal came 10 minutes after half time where a clear offside goal was scored on the Zaeem. The assist came none other from El Mago Valdivia himself, playing Tagliabue a fine final pass. Al-Ain needed some changes, and Zlatko Dalic forced a couple of changes.
Taking off Mohanad Salem – their best centre back – and keeping Ismail Ahmed – a liability – alone in a very unorthodox back 3 saw the Arabian Gulf League encounter a new tactical variant to the usual. A 3-2-1-4 shape, basically.
The two full backs would tuck in to help Ismail Ahmed while Lee and Bastos dropped by the halfway line to speed up the play. The front four (Essa, Mohammed Abdulrahman, Emenike and Diaky) went 4v4 against the Al-Wahda back line. Complete overload. The ‘1’ in the formation is a certain Omar Abdulrahman who was everywhere, making nippy movements in and around Al-Wahda’s defensive structure to receive the ball and play in the right pass. It worked. Omar assisted Emenike’s goal to bring the score back to 2-1 in favour of Al-Wahda.
The Anabi had goalkeeper Adel Al-Hosani to thank after a masterclass in injury time helping them keep Al-Ain at bay but a red card on substitute and captain Ismail Matar will certainly raise some eyebrows – however not as much as the offside goal that denied Al-Ain a point.
Think the Barclays Premier League is the best league in the world? Look at the Arabian Gulf League in the space of 4 weeks.
Rest of the Games
Dibba 4-2 Al-Jazira
Wow. If there is any score to cause a ripple amongst the AGL fan base it is most certainly this one. Al-Jazira have equipped themselves with foreigners of high caliber: Thiago Neves, Jefferson Farfan, Mirko Vucinic and Park Jong Woo. Moreover, they strengthened their defensive ranks with Al-Ain centre back Fares Juma. Khamis Esmail’s injury hurt them, however Yaser Matar proved to be a decent replacement.
Al-Jazira took the lead in the first half and went on to add another in the second half however Theo Bucker masterminded Dibba’s first goals of the season. Dibba – who had scored 1 league goal at this point – went on to score 3 in the space of 15 minutes to ensure victory of the Pride of Abu Dhabi. The return of Abel Braga has not been merry, with Ali Khaseif adding to the defeat with his lacklustre performances in goal.
1-1 draws the norm this week
Baniyas 1-1 Al-Shabab.
Emirates 1-1 Fujairah.
Al-Dhafra 1-1 Al-Shaab.
Al-Nasr 1-1 Sharjah.
All these matches coincided in the same week, with a couple of talking points out of these matches. Baniyas once again proved they are a challenger for the top spots with a resilient outing against fellow challengers Al-Shabab. Meanwhile Renan Garcia returned to the league in Emirates colours, helping them to a 1-1 draw. Hassan Maatouk vibrant as always, bagged an assist however failed to help Fujairah grab another 3 points as he missed a penalty in the 89th minute.
Al-Nasr started their league season off perfectly: only to ruin it against one of the worst teams in the league. They still head the league with 10 points, however. Makhete Diop returned to goals in Madinat Zayed, earning a point for Al-Dhafra in front of 600 fans.
Game of the Week
Esteghlal 3-3 Rah Ahan
No one in their right mind thought that Esteghlal (who is controversially on top of the table) would have such a close game against Rah Ahan (who was just hanging above the relegation line). But not everything happens like it seems. Esteghlal went into the game, wanting to raise their points so that they could stay at the top of the league for a longer amount of time. While Rah Ahan who had struggled in the bottom half of the table and had its manager (Farhad Kazemi) sacked, wanted to win the game and come back to the incredibly competitive Persian Gulf Pro League. So while most didn’t expect it, the game between Esteghlal and Rah Ahan was incredibly exciting and extremely controversial!
The game started and it was Rah Ahan who was controlling the game. Milad and Mehrdad Mohammadi, the incredible Iranian twins, were setting up every attack but they were very unlucky and Rahmati was superbly protecting the net. However, it didn’t take too long for the shaky looking Esteghlal to concede, with Bahador Abdi scoring a beautiful long ranger against Esteghlal in the 13th minute to make the game 1-0 to Rah Ahan. Things didn’t change much after the first goal for Rah Ahan, as they were still dominating the game. A dominance which resulted in a slightly controversial penalty call for Rah Ahan, as it looked like Mehrdad Mohammadi was just a bit outside of the box when the foul was committed on him. Some experts believed that the referee made the right call, but a few others believed that Mehrdad Mohammadi was outside of the box when the foul was committed. The extremely controversial referee, Hossein Zargar, called a penalty for Rah Ahan and Sebastian Strandvall scored Rah Ahan’s second goal against Esteghlal from the penalty spot to make the game 2-0.
The game then carried on and aside from Rah Ahan’s suspicious penalty, the game wasn’t too controversial. But that was only until the 35th minute where one of the most shocking decisions from the always controversial referee, Hossein Zargar, occurred. Shahbazzadeh (Esteghlal’s striker) was trying to get around Nenezič (Rah Ahan’s goalkeeper), but when Nenzič got hold of the ball, Shahbazzadeh blatantly dived onto the floor. And while many thought the referee would give Shahbazzadeh a yellow card for simulation, Zargar thought differently and gave a penalty to Esteghlal and a yellow card to Nenezič! Rah Ahan’s players were furiously protesting, but Omid Ebrahimi took the penalty and shot it past Nenezič’s grasp to give Esteghlal some hope for a comeback. And while it was only seconds away from the end of the first half, Esteghlal’s Hanif Omranzadeh held Nenezič’s foot between his feet, and when Nenezič got his foot out in a furious fashion, Meisam Majidi hugged Nenezič from the back and then was pushed away by the extremely frustrated Nenezič’. And while many thought that the referee would call halt and let Rah Ahan have a goal kick, Zargar thought otherwise and gave another penalty to Esteghlal and also gave out a second yellow card to Nenezic for Rah Ahan to go down to 10 men! This was another extremely controversial call from Zargar, who was once again furiously criticized by the experts for his horrible refereeing. After some more protests from Rah Ahan’s players, Omid Ebrahimi was once again behind the ball, and scored from the penalty spot to equalize (2-2) against Rah Ahan. It was then that the first half ended, with lots of controversial calls from the referee and a great attacking play from the underdogs, Rah Ahan.
The second half started and it only took five minutes for Farshad Faraji to score another goal to make the game 3-2 in favor of the 10-man Rah Ahan. However, it only took 2 minutes for Esteghlal to get back in the game with Arash Borhani’s equaliser. The referee then made two big mistakes. First was when Amin Hajmohammadi committed an extremely dangerous sliding tackle on the Rah Ahan’s player, which resulted in him kicking his head and making him bleed. And while many believed that Hajmohammadi should’ve received a red card, Zargar thought otherwise and didn’t even give him a yellow card! Second mistake was when Amin Hajmohammadi scored a header for Esteghlal but Zargar decided that the goal was offside, while it was blatant that Hajmohammadi was on side! Finally, this crazy match ended. And in a game that Esteghlal should’ve probably lost to Rah Ahan, the end result was an extremely controversial 3-3 draw. A match which certainly doubled the Iranian fans’ doubt and worry over the under qualified referees in their league.
Due to certain issues surrounding the weekly review this week we could not do the rest of the games in the Persian Pro League. The results however, were as follows:
Esteghlal Ahvaz 0-2 Gostaresh
Zob Ahan 0-0 Naft Tehran
Malavan 0-0 Padideh
Tractor Sazi 0-1 Persepolis
Saipa 1-0 Foolad
Saba 1-0 Sepahan (SHOCK OF THE WEEK)
Siah Jamegan 0-1 Esteghlal Khuzestan
There were plenty of goals and action in Round 3 of the Qatar Stars League as most of the big guns gave convincing performances to register important wins. The round saw 23 goals, bettering the 20 goals scored in Round 2. With the Qatar Stars League deciding to revert to the match pooling system instead of a traditional home-and-away system, the stadiums of Lekhwiya, Al-Sadd and Qatar SC all hosted two successive matches each. After the Round was concluded, Al-Sadd star Xavi Hernandez was selected as the Best Player for the month of September, while Al-Rayyan coach Jorge Fossati was chosen as the Best Coach.
Game of the Week
Al-Rayyan 3-1 Umm Salal
Promoted Al-Rayyan continued their winning march after their return to the Qatar Stars League, defeating Umm Salal 3-1 at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium. Upto 7000 Rayyani fans thronged the stadium, keeping up with the recent hype and rise in attendances. The fans honoured their legendary striker Mansour Muftah who was in attendance with a standing ovation in the 15th minute, a reference to his jersey number.
The match got underway and Rayyan looked dangerous from the start. The Lions took the lead in the 11th minute, when Rodrigo Tabata struck with a fine left-footed shot. The captain celebrated wildly by running to the fans and in the 32nd minute, he was at it again. This time, he diverted a Mohammed Jumuah pass onto the path of Sebastian Soria who made no mistake and slammed home the second goal for Al-Rayyan. Despite replays showing that Soria was in an offside position, the goal was given and Rayyan went into the tunnel with a two goal cushion.
After the restart, Umm Salal made attempts to get back into the game and a major opportunity came 15 minutes into the second half when they were awarded a free kick from around 25 yards out. Ivorian striker Yannick Sagbo sent a great curling finish to the right of keeper Omar Barry, giving his team much needed hope.
However, there wouldn’t be a miraculous comeback after Al-Rayyan scored the next goal. Tabata, Sergio Garcia and Soria all combined in a quick passing move that ended with Soria finishing from close range and getting what would prove to be the final goal of the match. The 3-1 win put Al-Rayyan back on top of the QSL table.
In the other games, Al-Gharafa managed to get a 2-0 win against Al-Ahli, despite playing the final half hour with ten men. New signing Alain Dioko was playing against his former employers and got his first goal of the season at the stroke of halftime, but was substituted after injuring himself in the process by crashing into the post. The Cheetahs’ defender Anderson Martins was sent off for a high-boot challenge in the 62nd minute, but the team held on to get the win, which was sealed by a superb Fuhaid al Shammari strike in injury time.
El Jaish and Al-Khor played out a drab 0-0 draw, which was the first goalless match of the season. Despite having a fearsome strike force, comprising the likes of Romarinho, Abdelrazak Hamdallah and Sardor Rashidov, the Armymen failed to break down an Al-Khor side which got its first point on the board.
Al-Arabi remain went on top of the table temporarily, ahead of Al-Rayyan’s match against Umm Salal, after maintaining their 100% record with a 4-0 win over Qatar SC. Paulinho opened the scoring a couple of minutes after kickoff. With fans just starting to stream in, the Brazilian latched on to a Yousef Ahmed pass, strode past Mohammed Mubarak and finished with ease. Arabi were in control for the most of the match against a lacklustre Qatar side who were down to 10 men in the 47th minute after Khaled Saleh was sent off for a second yellow card. After that the Reds scored three more goals – Musaab Mahmoud was first, heading in Ashkan Dejagah’s aerial ball; Junior Dutra was next, finishing well from the edge of the box. Finally, Rod Fanni took advantage of a clueless Qatar defence by slotting home the fourth and final goal.
Lekhwiya gave QSL viewers the most brilliant attacking performance of the season so far with a merciless 7-0 thrashing of Al-Kharaitiyat. Vladimir Weiss and Mohammed Razaq scored the first two goals in the second half, capitalizing on their opponent’s defensive mistakes with impunity. At halftime the score was 2-0 but after the restart, the Cops came out hungrier for goals. They ended up scoring five more. Youssef Msakni, Nam Tae Hee and Khaled Muftah all got onto the scoresheet, with Weiss and Msakni ending the match with two goals apiece. It was a flawless display that served to reiterate Lekhwiya’s title credentials early on.
Brazilian striker Muriqui rose to the top of the scorer’s list with a brace and a starring performance in Al-Sadd’s 4-1 win over Al-Wakrah. In the 32nd minute of the match, Muriqui headed a Xavi corner onto the post; the ball bounced off the line and was bundled in by Abdulkarim Hassan. There was a bit of confusion as to who had scored and whether the ball was handled by Abdulkarim but regardless of it all, the goal stood and was awarded to Abdulkarim. Muriqui then sent a perfect through ball in the 61st minute to Nadir Belhadj, who poked the ball past the onrushing keeper and scored into an empty net. The Brazilian then finished off a Xavi through pass in the 70th before Sebastian Saez reduced the deficit from the penalty spot for Al-Wakrah in the 86th. A minute later, Muriqui scored his second and the team’s fourth after slotting in a rebound.
After two 4-0 defeats at the hands of Al-Rayyan and Al-Jaish, Al-Sailiya finally got their first win of the season when they triumphed 1-0 over promoted Mesaimeer. It wasn’t pretty with the Falcons only scraping through courtesy an own goal. It was scored by Mesaimeer defender Osama Mousa who inadvertently hit the ball past his keeper Basil Zaidan in the 62nd minute. The score stayed that way for the rest of the match, meaning that Mesaimeer remain without points or goals after Round 3.
Just as the Jordanian Cup saw the entry of teams from the top tier; big boys Ramtha and Wehdat made their way out only one game in. The beauty of the cup as they say. The teams miss out on a quarter final spot and a shot at an AFC Cup spot in 2017.
Ramtha had to make do with a 3-3 draw against second tier side Al-Tara, before waving goodbye to the competition via a penalty shootout. Wehdat – Jordanian Champions and Arab giants – lost to mid-table side Al-Ahli after a fierce shot from Macauley separated both teams.
Fans on the other side of Amman will most certainly be cheering after the exit of Wehdat. Al-Faisaly took a sigh of relief as they stumbled past Al-Sareeh with thanks to a brace from Alassane Diallo. Bragging rights have completely shifted to their side after the Super Cup win in early September.
Shabab Sahel won their second consecutive Challenge Cup after turning around a 1-0 scoreline to newly-promoted Ijtimai into a 3-1 victory. Moussa Kabiru scored a hat trick in 11 minutes, the fastest official hat trick record in Lebanon according to talk around the town.
Al-Ahed meanwhile had to endure a tough 120 minutes to beat a rejuvenated Safa under the command of former Lebanese national team manager Emile Rustom. Debts and problems aside, this Safa side look like they can challenge for honours with the return of dazzling winger Mohammad Haidar.
It didn’t end there as Al-Ahed played once again, 3 days later, in the Lebanese Super Cup against Lebanese Cup winners Tripoli SC who succeeded under the reign of Palestinian Ismail Qurtam last season. A drab match with a few sparks here and there saw an attendance of 50 celebrate the win with Al-Ahed, who scored via a Hussein Awada header to earn their third honour in the space of a year.
Player of the Week