The UAE Pro League returned this weekend after a month-long hiatus that saw disappointments for the national team in their 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers and for Al-Wahda in the quarterfinal AFC Champions League final.
But continental frustrations were forgotten for some time as Matchday 7 produced some thrilling encounters, including two one-on-one clashes between the top five teams, while the competition’s most successful teams, Al -Ain and Al-Wasl, also clashed.
1. Contrasting fortunes for Lima and Caio as Al-Ain passes Al-Wasl
Under the watchful eye of their former boss Rodolfo Arruabarrena, who was present in the stands of the Zabeel stadium, UAE internationals of Brazilian origin Fabio Lima and Caio Canedo clashed as Al-Wasl lost 2-0 to Al-Ain.
Two years after the Argentinian’s departure from Al-Wasl, the club shadowed the team, which finished second in 2016-17 and third the following season, when they also reached the final of the President’s Cup. Since then, the Cheetahs have finished ninth for two consecutive seasons.
On the evening of his return to his former playing field, Caio’s effort in the top corner with 12 minutes remaining sealed Al-Ain’s victory, after Ivorian defender Kouame Autone placed them in the lead just after. the half hour mark. The former Al-Wasl man refused to celebrate and was greeted with a roaring standing ovation from the local crowd, even as he sent them to that dreaded ninth place.
While Lima remains a fan favorite and captain of the Al-Wasl club, he must have wondered “what if” as his former striking partner returned east to Al-Ain with the three points and the first place of the UAE Pro League.
2. Mendes’ masterclass sack former boss Al-Anbari
Former Sharjah winger Ryan Mendes was another man who took down his former club this weekend.
The Cape Verdean winger teamed up with Dia Saba with devastating effect as the Blues won 3-0 away. Mendes opened the scoring in added time at the end of the first half, then snuck into the top corner with 20 minutes left. His apology to his former fan base would have made little sense to Sharjah boss Abdulaziz Al-Anbari, who was sacked following the loss.
Four years after being appointed to the club he has led for nearly a decade, Al-Anbari was fired with the club occupying number five in the table, after a one-win streak in their last seven games in all competitions. combined, including the elimination of the round of 16 of the AFC Champions League at the hands of Al-Wahda and the League Cup at the hands of Ittihad Kalba.
Al-Anbari, however, leaves with his head held high, having transformed a side that languished in the relegation zone when he took over in the 2016-17 mid-season. He led them to the league title in 2018-19 – their first league since 1995-96, when Al-Anbari himself was a rising star in the club’s midfield – before adding the 2019 Super Cup and finishing. fourth last season.
3. Turkish referee Cakir on site as Shabab Al-Ahli brings down Al-Jazeera
In what was a heated top-four clash between defending champions Al-Jazeera and hosts Shabab Al-Ahli, all eyes were on a further import into the league. Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir became the first foreigner to referee a United Arab Emirates Pro League match since the United Arab Emirates Football Association announced a controversial rule change that required all domestic competitions to be arbitrated by Emirati arbitrators.
The 2015 UEFA Champions League final referee advocated for foreign referees on his debut as Shabab Al-Ahli beat Al-Jazeera 2-1 in Dubai.
Abdullah Ramadan has found his way to the net at Rashid Stadium for the second consecutive season after a sublime deep pass from poacher turned creator Ali Mabkhout.
After being denied a first game due to an offside decision – the first major appeal by Cakir and his team of officials – young Brazilian Yuri Cesar brought Shabab Al-Ahli to the level before the break , entering at the far post after a bend by Azizjon Ganiev.
The goal pick came after 72 minutes, with Iranian international Ahmad Nourollahi settling the game with a nice strike into the top corner after a solo run from the midfielder, ensuring his side passed Al-Jazeera in second place.
4. Four-Star Al-Wahda Brings Useless Emirates Club Close to Unwanted Record
Fresh out of their AFC Champions League quarter-final elimination at the hands of Saudi Arabia’s Al-Nassr, Al-Wahda put on a vigorous attack display to beat Emirates Club 4-1 at the Al Stadium. -Nahyan – a victory that could be seen from two opposing angles.
Coach Henk ten Cate’s men have extended their unbeaten streak since the start of the league season to seven games, but they remain in the middle of the table. The reason? Saturday night’s victory was their first since they beat the other promoted side, Al-Urooba, 4-0 in the opening weekend. Since then, Al-Wahda have drawn each of their five games, so questions remain as to whether the Abu Dhabi team can replicate their offensive performances against better-quality teams.
Emirates might already be down to 10 men when Al-Wahda’s Khalil Al-Hammadi called off Joseph Gnadou’s opener at the start of the second half, but Ten Cate will no doubt be encouraged by the fact that all of his first four have entered the scoresheet. , with Joao Pedro heading in the second, Fabio Martins applying a compound finish to bring the score to three and Omar Kharbin completing the score with a brilliant free kick under the wall.
For the Ras Al-Khaimah-based team, a quick return to the First Division seems inevitable but, even worse, coach Tarik Sektioui’s men run the risk of becoming the worst players in the history of the competition. Emirates Club has yet to collect a single point, a quarter of the season. They will need at least nine points to improve the undesirable record of Ajman Club, which lost eight points in 2009-10.
5. The centenary Diop breaks Gyan’s record
Back where it all started ten years ago, 34-year-old Al-Dhafra forward Makhete Diop rolled back the years as he won a brace against Ajman to become the top foreign scorer of all. UAE Pro League times with 101 goals, surpassing the 100 goalscoring record set by Ghanaian legend Asamoah Gyan under the colors of Al-Ain and Shabab Al-Ahli.
After arriving from the Syrian side of Al-Karamah in the summer of 2011, Diop established himself as Al-Dhafra’s all-time top scorer, forging a deadly partnership with the current Al-Wahda striker. Kharbin over five years.
The Senegalese striker then left for Shabab Al-Ahli for two successful seasons, before short stays in China with Beijing Renhe and in Saudi Arabia with Al-Shabab. Al-Dhafra returned in January and Diop was back to doing what he does best: scoring goals for fun in the league he knows so well. His last two were classic finishes well taken from inside the box to cement his legacy as one of the most feared strikers in UAE Pro League history.