This is going to be your weekly guide to Middle Eastern Football in English. Live happenings, it’s all on Ahdaaf. We will be putting it into one weekly article regarding every single league in the Middle East. Of course, you will see more in-depth analyses with the bigger leagues and the leagues we have more writers for (if you would like to write for us, feel free to tweet us, Facebook message us or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org).
To make this simple for you, we have hyperlinks to any league you would like to read at your own pleasure. We also have live leagues and results, so feel free to use this tool that will be your guide for any of the teams in the league that you want to read: https://ahdaaf.me/fixtures-results/
Game of the Week
Rah Ahan 5-0 Esteghlal Ahvaz
Stadium: Rah Ahan Stadium
Newly promoted Esteghlal Ahvaz travelled to Tehran to face Rah Ahan in what was considered as the first relegation 6-pointer of the season. Prior to the game, there was a lot of controversy surrounding the Esteghlal Ahvaz camp, with some high profile players complaining about a lack of payment of their contracts and other broken promises by the club. Both teams only had one win to show for their season, so they both aimed to get maximum points in this clash.
After observing a minute’s silence in respect to the recently deceased Persepolis captain, Hadi Norouzi, Esteghlal Ahvaz got the game under way. Early stages of the game saw both teams trying to dominate midfield and create scoring opportunities from a more direct approach. But it was the home side who took the lead on 10th minute, it was Mehrdad Mohammadi’s great work down the left which created the goal after he found Amin Manouchehri across the goal as the latter tapped the ball in to break the deadlock. Esteghlal Ahvaz captain, Adel Kolahkaj, came close to putting the game back on level terms when he headed wide from a corner, it was a great opportunity as the Rah Ahan defence fell asleep but Kolahkaj may regret this huge miss. Minutes later, it was time for Rah Ahan’s captain, Bahador Abdi, to step up as his persistence in the penalty box created a havoc and Esteghlal Ahvaz’ failure to clear the ball gave Mehrdad Mohammadi an opportunity to volley home inside the 6 yards box, and he converted to double his team’s lead. Rest of the first half saw the visitors pushing for a goal, and they went close on a couple of occasions but Rah Ahan’s goalkeeper, Mohammad Ali Ramezanian, was on hand to make some crucial saves to keep the score at 2-0 before the break.
The game was indifferent in 2nd half, with neither team eager to push on to score. But on 70th minute, as Esteghlal Ahvaz pushed for a goal to get back into the game, Rah Ahan hit them on the counter and it was Amin Manouchehri on the right who noticed Mehrdad Mohammad running towards to the box and laid the ball at his feet as Mohammadi’s accurate side footed shot found the corner of the net to put the game beyond their opponents. The last few minutes of the game saw Esteghlal Ahvaz giving up as they allowed their hosts to score 2 more goals with some comical defending on the show. 23 year old Hossein Karimi and Captain, Bahador Abdi, scored the 4th and 5th goal respectively as Rah Ahan recorded their 2nd win of the season in emphatic fashion.
It was a terrible performance from Esteghlal Ahvaz, with their defence cutting open time and time again allowing their opponents to score 5. As a result, Siavash Bakhtiarizadeh, was sacked as manager and he has been replaced by Ali Hanteh. Rah Ahan, however, are looking good under their new manager, Mehdi Tartar, and aiming to get more points across the table in the coming weeks.
Rest of the Games
The most anticipated game of the week took place at the Azadi Stadium where Persepolis took on Saba Qom. There was a lot of eyes on this game but for non-football reasons. Persepolis, tragically lost their club captain, Hadi Norouzi, who passed away over a week before the game and the players were keen to get on the pitch and win a game in his memory. Before the game started, the fans held up a “Hadi24” tifo in the memory of their captain. Saba took the lead through former Esteghlal and Persepolis man, Mohammad Ghazi, before Persepolis’s man in-form, Mehdi Taremi, equalised in 2nd half as the game ended 1-1.
A crisis hit Foolad hosted Tractor Sazi in what turned out to be a game full of action. Tractor Sazi had to come back from 1-0 down to win 2-1 as Mohammad Iranpourian scored a 90th minute winner from the penalty spot. Omid Khaledi had given Foolad the lead on 65th minute before Augusto Cesar equalised 6 minutes later. Farid Karimi of Tractor Sazi and Esmaeil Sharifat of Foolad were sent off during the 2nd half, as Foolad find themselves at the foot of the table.
Zob Ahan took another leap towards the top of the table as they earned a hard earned 1-0 win away from home at Saipa. Masoud Hassanzadeh scored the only goal of the game on 16th minute which takes Zob Ahan up to 4th in the table just above Saipa.
Mehdi Kheiri scored the goal of the week as Padideh held league leaders, Esteghlal, to a 1-1 draw at home. Kheiri’s 40 yard spectacular goal gave Padideh the lead inside the first 5 minutes before Hossein Moradmand’s own goal gave Esteghlal an equaliser just before the hour mark. Esteghlal remain at the top of the table ahead with other results going their way.
Elsewhere in Esfahan, defending champions, Sepahan, faced Siah Jamegan as they aimed to put more pressure on leaders Esteghlal. However, Siah Jamegan’s resolute performance earned them a 1-1 draw in such a difficult away trip. Mehdi Sharifi scored for Sepahan just before the break as Behrouz Afshar brought the game back to level terms in the 2nd half. Sepahan remain 2nd in the table only on goal difference ahead of 3rd placed Esteghlal Khuzestan.
Naft Tehran who have had a difficult start to the season, travelled to Tabriz to face Gostaresh. Aloys Nong gave visitors the lead but Omid Nezamipour earned his team a point at home as the game ended 1-1. Naft remain just outside the relegation zone as manager, Alireza Mansourian, aims to get his team back to winning ways sooner rather than later.
The only 0-0 draw of the week came in Ahvaz where Esteghlal Khuzestan welcomed Malavan. A point each way was a fair result as Esteghlal Khuzestan continue their incredible run this season, after surviving by the skin of their teeth last season, they are now 3rd in the table amassing 15 points from 8 games.
Ahdaaf Player of the Week:
Mehrdad Mohammadi’s performance in his team’s 5-0 win at home earns him the Player of the Week award. With two goals and an assist, he was instrumental in earning his team an invaluable 3 points. The 22 year old midfielder has had a fantastic start to the season, he is the league’s joint top goalscorer with 6 goals and many assists.
Written by Sina Saemian
Game of the Week
Al-Ahli 3-1 Sharjah
Stadium: Rashid Stadium, Dubai
Sharjah’s hopes dwindle weekly, as their attendance continues to dwindle too. The away fans were loud for the majority of the first half as new signing Maicosuel scored another league goal. However, the Al-Ahli attack was too good. The amount of times we’ve said, tweeted or written this…
Lima, Sow and Al-Hammadi proved a deadly trio as they all helped each other out to score. Obviously not forgetting Habib Fardan’s addition this time. The Al-Ahli side had next to no weaknesses despite going down 1-0. Overall, the game wasn’t entertaining as much itself. The week was very drab in the Arabian Gulf League, with two 0-0 draws taking over in the supposed ‘Games of the Week’! (Al-Jazira x Al-Shabab // Al-Nasr x Al-Wahda)
However one thing that we should note is Cosmin’s reluctance to play a weakened squad. Even in the Arabian Gulf Cup – a second tier cup – the likes of Lima, Sow, Ribeiro, Fardan, Salmin and Kwon play. Nevertheless, that’s not to say young players aren’t getting their chances. Saeed Ahmed, Humaid Abbas, Humaid Salmin, Adil Al-Hammadi, Yousif Al-Sayed are some of the names that have seen game time across the course of the season.
Rest of the Games
Al-Jazira 0-0 Al-Shabab
Stadium: Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi
To think that Al-Jazira’s attendances in the league over the past 5 seasons has always stayed above 6,000 at the bare minimum in terms of average attendances. Now, look at their level. This is taking into account an Abu Dhabi Derby (Al-Wahda), one of the biggest fan bases (Al-Wasl) and a top four challenger (Al-Shabab) have come to face them.
What if the likes of Dibba, Al-Dhafra and Fujairah come to play at the MBZ stadium? All we know is, the league attendances this season have been largely disappointing. Al-Jazira faced Fujairah, Emirates and Al-Ain in the first 3 games of 2014-15 to see an average attendance of 8,468 – only for it to deteriorate to 3,533 in the current season.
Nevertheless, the game was a very tight affair that saw an improved Al-Jazira defence with not much to note of. One move by Caio Junior that saw a difference is moving Jo to the wing and Villanueva into the centre: a tactical change not seen in the AGL.
Fujairah 1-1 Al-Dhafra
Stadium: Fujairah, Fujairah
A game that lacked anything to begin with, it was all up to individual ability of Hassan Maatouk to create something out of nothing. Yet that wasn’t present in this game to everyone’s ultimate surprise. Defensive mistakes saw each team bag a goal, and that was the story of the game in essence.
Patrick Eze stole the ball off an Al-Dhafra defender before opening the scoring, while Al-Dhafra’s fuzzy haired central midfielder Al-Naqbi scored a long-range goal that Al-Ruwahi (Fujairah GK) caught and let go of in between his own legs! Silly mistakes by the goalkeeper have continued. It is important to remember that Al-Ruwahi was the goalkeeper who conceded 8 against Al-Ahli in the opening game of the season.
Al-Ain 1-0 Dibba
Stadium: Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, Al-Ain
Ryan Babel was the talk of a very boring game. He started off well to begin with, before getting a red card (sparking tweets to him claiming that he got sent off to watch Klopp’s debut at Liverpool against Tottenham!) during the proceedings of the first half.
It was up to Omar Abdulrahman to force a winner, as he crossed it towards goal only for recent internationally retired defender Bilal Najjarine scoring one of the best own goals we’ve seen in a while.
Al-Nasr 0-0 Al-Wahda
Stadium: Maktoum Stadium, Dubai
The match did not live up to its expected level, especially Al-Nasr who failed to grab the 3 important points that could have kept them at the top of the table. The international break clearly affected both sets of players.
The match lacked any chances to speak of, specifically from Al-Wahda who suffered from playing with a man down. Mohammad Bargash saw himself sent off in the first half. On the other hand, Al-Nasr players failed to take advantage of the extra space gained in the absence of an extra man.
Jimenez, Pitroipa and Kembo Ekoko have been fantastic since the beginning of the season. However, this was the first time that all three failed to make an impact on the match. They failed to threaten any of the Al-Wahda centre backs.
Al-Wahda closed the gaps in the second half with two banks of 4, however that didn’t change the course of the game either. This saw the game end in a stalemate.
Al-Shaab 1-2 Al-Wasl
Stadium: Khaled Bin Mohammad, Sharjah
The talking point of the game has to take into account the Al-Shaab fans who showed up in numbers once again. Numbers is on the level of Emirati football, where the average attendance is around 2,500.
Moreover, this season has seen Al-Shaab rank amongst the highest teams in the league in terms of attendance despite their poor start. When Al-Shaab have had a higher average attendance than Al-Ain, there is definitely a problem with the way the league is going attendance-wise.
Looking at the play, it was really both teams without a plan. Al-Wasl’s fans questioned the way Calderon – a manager who structured Al-Wasl very well last season – set up the team. It was only until the final half hour of the game where Al-Wasl took the lead. Fabio Lima opened the scoring, before Edgar Bruno ended his league goal drought. Former Waslawi Maher Jassem brought Al-Shaab’s hopes back in the 89th minute, however the Cheetahs saw the game out.
Emirates 0-3 Baniyas
Stadium: Emirates Stadium, Ras Al-Khaimah
Defensive mistakes played a big part in Emirates’ 3-0 loss to Baniyas. Poor positioning in their deep defensive block led to some great chances for Baniyas. The reason for this derives from Baniyas’ central midfielders’ freedom. Mark Milligan and Amer Abdulrahman were both allowed the space to dictate the game and this was visible in Amer’s brilliant assist to Joaquin Larrivey.
In the second half, Baniyas defended in numbers but were afraid of its implications considering that this resulted in Al-Shabab scoring a late equaliser in the previous game. Luis Garcia instructed his team to attack, and they grabbed the 3rd goal. Baniyas are the dark horses of this season.
Written by Hamoudi Fayad
Game of the Week
Lekhwiya 2-3 Al-Arabi
Stadium: Abdulla bin Khalifa Stadium, Lekhwiya
In what could prove to be a very crucial result in the course of the 2015/16 season, Al-Arabi pulled off a major surprise by beating defending champions Lekhwiya 3-2 last Sunday. It was billed as the real litmus test for Gianfranco Zola’s men, facing the best team in the country but Al-Arabi showed no signs of being overwhelmed by the occasion.
Lekhwiya came into the match in the face of some controversy, after Ahmed Yasser’s suspension drama. They were looking to put it all behind them but were given a rude shock in the second minute of the game when Junior Dutra calmly struck the opener from the edge of the box. Al-Arabi then proceeded to play some of their best football so far, with a mature display in all areas until they suddenly capitulated just a few minutes before halftime. In a four-minute spell, Lekhwiya turned the tables. Youssef Msakni equalised in the 38th minute before Vladimir Weiss got the second for the Cops in the 41st with a long-range strike. Going into halftime, it seemed Al-Arabi’s good form was ill-fated and short. But after the restart, they returned as a different team.
Deservedly, the Reds equalized in the 62nd minute. Once again, it was Dutra, who played a delightful one-two with fellow Brazilian Paulinho, got into the box and slot the ball past Lecomte to spark a revival in the Al-Arabi stands. Five minutes later, there was more noise when Dutra completed his hattrick, latching on to a pass from Ashkan Dejagah before placing the ball beyond Lecomte’s reach.
To make matters worse for Lekhwiya, captain Karim Boudiaf was sent off for elbowing Dutra in the 75th minute. Boudiaf then proceeded to attack a second player, before throwing his armband at the linesman and gesturing to the fans before leaving the field. The QFA would go on to hand him a six-month suspension and a QR 300,000 fine. Watch Karim Boudiaf’s fit:
Rest of the Games
Al-Khor 2-4 Al-Rayyan
Al-Rayyan remained at the top of the table with a 100% record after yet another win, this time against struggling Al-Khor. Captain Rodrigo Tabata opened the scoring in the first minute before Mubarak Eid equalised for Al-Khor (19th). New signing Gonzalo Viera then regained the lead for Rayyan (21st), netting his third goal of the season. Youngster Abdulhamid Anad scored Rayyan’s third (25th) before teeing up Sergio Garcia for the fourth (45th). Al-Khor attempted to get back in the game but could only score once through Lee Yong (52nd).
Al-Ahli 2-2 Al-Kharaitiyat
The Hamad bin Khalifa Stadium witnessed a fine match when Ahli and Kharaitiyat went head to head. It was Kharaitiyat who took the initiative and two goals from Hassan Abdelfattah (42nd) and Anwar Diba (49th) seemed to have put them in the driving seat. However, Al-Ahli responded brilliantly with two penalties: Meshaal Abdullah reducing the deficit (70th) and Mujtaba Jabbari scoring late (92nd) to salvage a point.
Al-Wakrah 1-2 Al-Sailiya
Al-Wakrah’s horrrible start to the season continued after a defeat at the hands of Al-Sailiya. Last season’s PGPL top scorer Edinho put Sailiya in the lead (28th) before Mouhcine Moutouali equalised for Al-Wakrah from a penalty (59th). Bahraini midfielder Faouzi Ayesh then produced a free-kick which didn’t seem dangerous before Wakrah keeper Inyass dropped what should have been an easy catch, gifting Sailiya the winner (64th).
Mesaimeer 0-3 Umm Salal
Promoted Mesaimeer are finding the Qatar Stars League too tough to handle, with this defeat by Umm Salal leaving them at the bottom of the standings with zero points and no goals scored after five rounds. This time, goals from Ismail Mahmoud (23rd), Theyab al-Annabi (89th) and Yannick Sagbo (90th) that did the damage.
Xavi Hernandez and his Al-Sadd team kept up the pressure on leaders Al-Rayyan with a victory over Qatar SC that left them two points behind top spot. Muriqui opened the scoring for the Wolves as early as in the 4th minute before Mohammed Kasola headed in a second in the 53rd. Al-Sadd’s defensive woes were exposed when Mouhcine Iajour penetrated quite easily to pull a goal back for Qatar (79th). Luckily for Al-Sadd, the score stayed 2-1 for the rest of the match. Qatar SC coach Radhi Shneishel will be feeling the pressure after a surprisingly bad start to the campaign, with no wins registered as of Round 5. To make matters worse, last year’s top scorer Hamdi Harbaoui has left the club over a dispute with the management.
Al-Gharafa 1-4 El Jaish
Written by Ahmed Hashim
Game of the Week
Al-Ahli 4-2 Al-Nassr
Stadium: Al-Jawhara Stadium (King bdullah Sport City), Jeddah
The Saudi ALJ League El Clásico between Al-Ahli and Al-Nassr turned out to be a one-sided match. Al-Ahli won with a sweeping victory against Al-Nassr in King Abdullah Sport City – Stadium, Jeddah, nicknamed The Jewel, with more than 32,000 spectators watching. Al-Ahli was playing at home with seven points at second place on the ALJ League standings and Al-Nassr with 5 points at fifth place. Al-Ahli’s win is not a matter of three points only, but they also were able to put Al-Nassr in more despair and push last season’s Champions and a very fierce rival a step farther away from the title. This win is also a new record, 38 matches undefeated!
As always, El Clásico between Al-Ahli and Al-Nassr was dramatic, full of goals and action. Al-Ahli head coach Christian Gross entered the match with a 4-2-3-1 formation, while Al-Nassr head coach Jorge da Silva had 4-3-1-2 formation at hand. With five quick and skillful midfielders from Al-Ahli on the pitch, the Al-Nassr defense, especially the left side, suffered tremendously. Al-Nassr left back Hussain Abdulghani, aged 38, and the centre back Muhammad Hussain, aged 35, could not keep up with Al-Ahli swift midfielders: Tayseer Al-Jasim, Salman Al-Moasher, and Hussain Al-Mqahwi. The match was on fire just right from the beginning. Omar Al-Somah executed a free-kick just outside the box brilliantly from beneath the wall, surprisingly, to hit the back of net. Al-Nassr goalkeeper, Al-Enezi, could only watch the ball waddling straight to the goal 6′.
After Al-Ahli’s first goal, Al-Nassr tried to get back to the match and they were able to control the match for about 20 minutes but in vain. Another free kick a little bit farther this time, the mighty Omar Al-Somah was able to do it again and score the second goal 28′, this time Cristiano Ronaldo style! Few minutes later, Al-Somah scored a hat-trick making it in just 37 minutes after an excellent assist from Mustafa Bassas who was able to beat the defender, Muhammad Hussain. That goal just killed the match! Jorge da Silva who appeared clueless, replaced the robust central defensive midfielder, Abdulaziz Al-Jebreen, by the skillful playmaker Yahia Al-Shehri in a strange attempt to come back! That actually made things worse, it created more space for counterattacks. Maiga and Hazazi had two real chances to score at least a goal before half time, but Al-Ahli’s veteran defender, Osama Hawsawi, was able to save it. The first half ended with Al-Ahli leading the match with 3 goals to nil.
Al-Nassr started the second half more determined to do something, their efforts paid off a penalty. Adrian Mierzejewski scored Al-Nassr first goal 69′ from the penalty spot. That goal provoked Al-Ali players thus the match became more intense. While Al-Nassr was struggling to come back to the match, Tayseer Al-Jasim passed a superb through ball to Islam Seraj who unleashed an unstoppable right-footed drive into the back of the net scoring the fourth goal 72′ and securing the three points. In an attempt to save the face, Al-Nassr attacked in the last 20 minutes but it was too late. Omar Hawsawi, however, managed to do what the strikers could not. He scored the second goal 82′ for Al-Nassr after diverting a long pass from a free kick from Hussain Abdulghani. The final score was 4:2, Al-Ahli to the top of ALJ standings.
Christian Gross was able to outperform Jorge da Silva yet again. With such a clever coach and brilliant squad, Al-Ahli could finally win the title that has been away for 32 years now. The champions of the ALJ, Al-Nassr, for the last two years are in their worst shape since José Daniel Carreño managed the team in September 2012! Probably, Gross has put the final nail in da Silva’s coffin! So, will Al-Ahli continue its extraordinary performances to win the title? Or, is it going to be a replica of last season when Al-Ahli defeated Al-Nassr twice; but still, Al-Nassr won the title?
Written by Nasser Al Beshri
Rest of the Games
Hajer 1-2 Al-Khaleej
Things didn’t look promising for hosts Hajer early in their match against Al-Khaleej after veteran defender Rashid Al Raheeb had a penalty called against after forward Abobaker Sylla plunged to the ground from the slightest contact he could sense. Ibrahim Al Zawahreh’s penalty was saved brilliantly by captain Mustafa Malayekah, yet the daring save did little in the hosts’ favor as less than 20 minutes later Hajer’s defense produced a calamity of an effort of clearing the ball when Mansour Nammazi caught his team Ali Al-Zubaidi in the stomach which resulted in the ball to be deflected in his own net. Al-Zubaidi took to the ground although doubtful it was because of pain more than to hide his face.
Marwan Hussein extended the lead in favor of the guests just before halftime after Mustafa Malayekah perried a shot from Talal Majrashi only for the ball to find itself at the Iraqi’s feet for a tapin. It seemed Al-Khaleej were easily on their way to the first 3 points of the season. Dragan Ceran gave the match life again after he unleashed a rocket of a shot that went off the left post from just outside the semicircle of the 18 yard box. Unfortunately for Hajer, that wasn’t enough. Al-Khaleej claimed their first win as well as their first pair of goals in 3 months.
Al-Raed 0-0 Fateh
Not a lot to be said about this fixture other than dead last Al-Raed finally getting a point since the beginning of the season in a match that surprisingly saw them look sharper than their guests Fateh. The former champions from 2 seasons ago looked off sync after the international break and barely looked for a goal or a win at King Abdullah Sport City.
Al-Wehda 2-2 Al-Faisaly
Al-Wehda took the lead in the 37th minute after Ali Awaji took advantage of a shambolic attempt by goalkeeper Ibrahim Zaid to easily place it in the net. Al-Faisaly – still buzzing from their display against Al-Ittihad from the 3rd round came back flying after Hamza Al-Dardour’s cross found Javier Balboa only 3 minutes after conceding the match’s first goal. Like that was enough, Al-Wehda quickly charged back at Ibrahim Zaid’s goal in the 42nd minute. Goalscorer Ali Awaji passed the ball to Lima, who held the ball until Awaji found space and zig-zagged from the left side of the box to right. Lima threaded it back to Awaji, who dribbled his way to just a few yards before the goal-line and crossed it back to Lima who side-footed into the back of the net.
The second half was a different as it seemed to drag on forever until the 3rd minute of stoppage time when Fawaz Fallatah’s cross found Hamza Al-Dardour but his attempt shanked the ball awkardly in Al-Wehda’s box to find an unmarked Mohammed Salem who headed the ball towards the goal but was an inch high and deflected off the bar back to none other than culprit Al-Dardour but this time he was ready in headed it in easily giving Al-Faisaly a precious point in the dying seconds.
Al-Qadisyah 1-3 Al-Ittihad
Al-Ittihad started their match in Khobar as Sulley Muntari cherry picked the ball in the middle of the park in the 20 minute mark and passed it over to Rivas who only needed a touch before he let loose of a screamer from the tip of the 18 yard box that had goalkeeper Faisal Masrahi in no-man’s land taking the lead for the guests in what looked like a one-sided affair to that point. Al-Qadisiyah were extended a lifeline 5 minutes afterwards after Ittihad forward Abdulrahman Al Ghamdi’s attempt at dribbling in front of his own box resulted in Diego Mauricio bolting in and taking a shot with his left foot only for goalkeeper Fawaz Al-Qarni to block it, but it didn’t end there. The ball rolled back to Mauricio who was losing his balance and edging out of the pitch, and in a desperate attempt to correct his mistake in came Abdulrahman AlGhamdi. The young forward attempted to clear the ball, but the ball went straight to Diego Mauricio’s hip – who was standing outside by then – and came rolling back into the pitch to find an unmarked Hassan Al-Amri who easily made it 1-1.
The moment of comedic fortune didn’t help the hosts in the 58th minute when Muntari found Rivas again – this time with a diagonal lob pass that the Venezuelan calmly controlled on his chest and whipped on the volley to make it 2-1 in favor of Al-Ittihad. Rivas had to claim his hat-trick, and that he did in the 83rd minute when he found Fahad Al-Muwallad’s ground pass from the right and sidefooted it make it 3 and over in favor of the Jeddah club who needed this win for confidence more than anything else. The starting lineup came on the pitch all wearing home kits with the number 44 printed on both sides in solidarity with their teammate Mukthar Fallatah, whom had become a villain in the eyes of the Ittihad faithful after a spat between the player and a fan turned sour because of Fallatah losing cool and resolving to profane insults. That same unity showed in the match. The young Ittihad could have collapsed again after Al-Ghamdi’s mistake but rose from the ashes looking to claim something they deserved.
Najran 0-1 Al-Shabab
Al-Shabab did what needed to be done in a match that saw more collisions and acts of force than it did actual playing of football. Diego Arismendi’s effort at heading it backwards from a Rafinha cross only resulted in it bouncing above Najran’s defense and finding bandaged countryman Mauricio Affonso unmarked and he headed the ball as strong as his damaged head could hit it. Goalkeeper Abdulaziz Takrouni got a hand on it but it wasn’t enough as that was the decider in a match that saw as many cards as it did shots on target (Yes, really).
Written by Othman At-Twaijri
Ansar 1-1 Tripoli
Stadium: Tripoli Municipal Stadium, Tripoli
Ansar started a new (revived) era under Jamal Taha, one of the better players in Lebanese football who has now become manager. His status in Lebanon is very high, despite almost getting Shabab Al-Sahel relegated last season. The Lebanese League started off with a cracker.
Ghanaians Abdulaziz Youssef and Michael Helegbe teamed up to create havoc on Ansar defenders, namely Hussein Al-Sayed. Al-Sayed, who went off before the end of the first half, missed the ball on a couple of occasions allowing the attackers on goal. Ansar quickly returned under the guidance of the low-tempered Rabih Ataya who helped Imad Ghaddar earn and score a penalty.
Ataya is national team quality, only his behaviour doesn’t represent that. He failed to play many games for the team last season and was on the verge of leaving, but Ansar need him if anything. A constant menace in central attacking midfield, it will only be time until we see him in the national team despite the circumstances…
Nabi Chit 2-1 Ahed
Stadium: Nabi Chit Stadium, Zahle, Beqaa
The Champions succumbed to a 2-1 defeat in the governorate of Beqaa. After summer changes that saw manager Mahmoud Hammoud look for ways to tactically enhance the team, a loss ensued.
Two trophies (Lebanese Elite Cup and Lebanese Super Cup) over the summer were enough to bring the Ahed fan base to a sense of optimism, especially with the AFC Cup a very important competition come February. They don’t want to fall into the same trap as Nejmeh, who embarrassed themselves in the tournament last year.
But it was our friend Abdoulaye Kanoute who scored the winner against Ahed. That’s right, Kanoute was without a club the last time we wrote about him. Ultimately travelling to Bahrain after Malkiya’s trial offer, he returned to Mali citing technical reasons were the problem during his time in the Gulf nation. We sorted him out with the right people that linked him to preferred clubs in Nabi Chit, Safa and Shabab Sahel. Inevitably, he signed for Nabi Chit to replace Cheikh Diouck who left to Safa in the process.
Nejmeh 1-1 Shabab Sahel
Stadium: Sidon International Stadium, Sidon
Moussa Kabiru started his first game for Shabab Sahel, this coming after a fantastic 8 goals scored in the pre-season Challenge Cup. How did he fare in his first game against the biggest club in Lebanon? By scoring, that’s how. Shabab Sahel saw fresh performances off the back of captain and veteran Zuheir Abdullah at right back too.
However Nejmeh came back into the game through new Chadian striker Karl Max Dany, scoring a powerful shot into the top corner. Joan Oumari’s brother and new signing Hassan Oumari excelled at left back where he create the adequate chances for strikers to take advantage of. Moussa Hojeij will be happy from the point gained in his first game as Sahel manager, ironically against the team he excelled at during his playing career.
Written by Hamoudi Fayad
Racing 1-3 Safa
Al-Safa dominated the first half despite Racing players’ effort. The first 15 minutes of the game showed how Safa was dominating over the based in Achrafiyeh. Racing players were a bit lost against the huge performance by Safa and Lebanese national team winger Mohammed Haidar who scored the first goal (15th minute) of the game despite missing two easy chances later on, a header and a one-on-one in the 38th and 40th minute respectively.
In the second half, although Racing’s imports weren’t as good as expected the team came back in the game by keeping the ball more in Safa’s half but unfortunately Safa scored their second goal (78th minute) by Hazimeh on the goal keeper’s left after a long pass from his team mate Ahmad Jalloul ending Racing’s domination during the second half.
Later on, youngster Omar El-Kurdi scored a screamer (83rd minute) giving Safa a comfortable lead, 3-0. 5 minutes later, Adnan Melhem crossed the ball to Racing’s foreign player Dragic who scored Racing’s first goal. The match ended 1-3 and the White Castle fans weren’t satisfied by their team’s performance.
Written by Abed Aydin
Oman Derby fails to entertain despite record 12,000 attendance – Sohar, Oman
More than 12,000 fans on a blue and green night came to watch from the North Batinah region in Oman. Neighbours Sohar and Saham played at the Sports Complex in Sohar during the 4th round of the 3rd edition of the Oman Professional League.
Bader Al-Jaberi and Vedran Gerc brought in a lot of resentment towards their performances as both failed to grant Sohar the win in the last 10 minutes of the game. The fans saw that lack of concentration and urgency led to these problems, however Saham fans felt relieved with the scoreline.
A point in Sohar’s stadium (with the stadium situation in Oman this is technically a home game for Saham!) was enough for them to feel good considering their start to the league campaign. Fans were entertained with the atmosphere, which was a great addition to the league this season.
Sohar relied on playing the ball from deep into dangerous positions and getting their wide players involved, while Saham sat back relishing a chance on the counter. A 0-0 draw may have been fair for a game of such caliber. Sohar face Al-Suwaiq next in another match expected to bring in a large attendance.
Al-Faisaly’s rocky start continues – Amman, Jordan
Al-Faisaly could only gain a point in their match against Al-Asalah in a 1-1 draw during the third week of the Jordanian League. Al-Faisaly opened the scoring against the newly-promoted opponent in the 74th minute, via the Senegalese striker Alassane Diallo. This was only until Al-Asalah equalised during injury time via Saed Al-Daboubi.
Al-Faisaly now sit in mid-table with 4 points, as Al-Asalah gained their first point of the season. Meanwhile, Al-Ahli stole a win from That Ras to gain their first of them this season only for Wehdat to further their title credentials with a powerful win over Shabab Ordon.
Chathir arrives as Shurta manager, Younis Mahmoud scores first goal back at Talaba – Iraq
Sitting in 9th place in the Iraqi League at time of writing, Hakeem Shaker left his position as Al-Shurta manager in what was their 4th loss of the season. 6 points in 6 match days was not enough for a team who expect to challenge for the title. A loss to Nadi Amana Baghdad didn’t bode well with the board either, who went on to sign Qahtan Chathir in quick fashion after a week of speculation.
In Group 1, a crazy game occurred between Younis Mahmoud’s Talaba and the struggling Al-Karkh, the latter whom have seen the latest managerial change. Abbas Attiya will take over after Essam Hamad’s resignation happened prior to the game due to financial problems and a series of losses. Abdulqadir Tariq got his name on the scoresheet twice for Talaba, but 1 point in two games will further them away from Zawraa and Naft near the top spot.
Home teams combined score of 0 in dreadful week for Kuwaiti football – Kuwait
6 home teams opened their week with 0 goals in the 13-team league of Kuwait. The likes of giants Qadsia, Kuwait SC and Al-Arabi scored a combined total of 10 goals between them. Aziz Mashaan scored a fantastic header to register his first and the league’s first goal of the season, while also grabbing an assist.
Only Al-Fahaheel and Al-Sahel came away with a point this week. Both teams were limited to poor chances and led to an overall, drab score of 0-0 at the end. The cruciate ligament has affected a rising star (Ahmad Al-Zanki) and one of the best Kuwaiti players (Saif Al-Hashan). Both are reported to be out of the season, with the latter seeing his dream move to Al-Shabab (KSA) end in quick fashion after only 2 months with the club.
Kuwaiti football in general was dealt a big blow by FIFA after failing to solve internal association problems that led to their suspension from all external football competitions such as the World Cup Qualifiers, Asian Cup Qualifiers and the AFC Cup. This has resulted in the temporary suspension of the Kuwaiti national team, however both representatives in the AFC Cup semi-final – Qadsia and Kuwait SC – have been eliminated from the tournament.
Aziz Mashaan tweeted: “No comment”, regarding the dire situation.
Super Cup win gives Al-Hidd bragging rights – Manama, Bahrain
A mediocre attendance watched a relatively fair game between Al-Hidd (Bahrain King Cup winners) and Muharraq (VIVA Bahrain League Winners) that ended in a penalty shootout. It ended in a fairytale way for the Al-Hidd faithful, seeing recently drafted national team goalkeeper Abbas Ahmad save Efosa Francis’ penalty; only to score the winner after his save.
The game itself during open play didn’t see much action until the second half where substitutions were made to change the course of the game. Hamad Al-Dakhil grabbed what looked set to be a winner for Khaled Taj’s men, before late substitute Ali Haram ensured a penalty shootout for the Hiddawi fans and Salman Shareeda.
The penalty shootout ended in 7-6 for Al-Hidd, who then went on to mock Muharraq on social media claiming that Al-Hidd “are the first ever team to defeat Muharraq and score 7 goals in the process, twice, in a season” (referring to Al-Hidd’s 7-0 win in the Bahrain FA Cup during pre-season). Muharraq fans replied with their 10-0 win seasons ago, but they came out losers without a doubt. Swearing at your own players on the megaphone: not a good idea.
Taraji Wad Al-Nes grab their first win of the season – Al-Khadar, Palestine
Taraji Wad Al-Nes earned their first win of the season after defeating Shabab Al-Samu in an entertaining game at the Al-Khadar Stadium during the third week of the Wataniya Mobile Pro League.
With this win, Taraji raise their total to 3 points after two losses while Samu are stuck with a single point. The first 25 minutes saw a series of random chances created before Taraji started to settle into the proceedings and force a goal.
Veteran Khader Youssef waited until the 42nd minute of the game to take advantage of the goalkeepers’ positioning and lobbed it ahead of him to announce the first goal of the game. It wasn’t long until Taraji scored again, with Jehad Saqr stealing the ball after a defensive mistake from the Samu defenders.
Samu didn’t back down that easy and attacked, aiming to lessen the deficit. With a brilliant piece of individual skill via Fadi Lafi, Samu were back in the game only 8 minutes later. The game increased in intensity.
After clear domination by Samu, they were able to equalise in the 68th minute with thanks to Abdulla Al-Tabal. This happened after a good passing move between Kaware’ and Abu Ghuneima.
It was the veteran Khader Yousef again, this time with an assist. A ball through to Samih, who got the better of two defenders ensured 3 points for Ashraf Numan’s former club.
Team of the Week
Player of the Week