Dubai: Former champions Al Wahda will have to really raise their level heading into the Abu Dhabi derby against neighbours Al Jazira in second week action of the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) on Friday.
Champions on four earlier occasions, including the last one at the end of the 2009-10 season, Al Wahda caved in to a single-goal away loss to Fujairah in their AGL opener last week. Nothing seemed to go right for the former champions, as lowly Fujairah scored through defender Abdullah Al Junaibi eight minutes from the full-time whistle to hand the underdogs with full points.
The statistics said it all as Al Wahda dominated with nearly 60 per cent possession and had 21 shots compared to seven from their opponents. But the Clarets could do very little as Al Junaibi came up with the match-winner in the 82nd minute to deny them a perfect start to the season.
Their opponents on Friday will be Al Jazira, who rode on the opener from Mohammad Omar Al Attas and an injury-time goal from new Brazilian signing Marcos Keno for full points at home against Al Dhafrah and occupy the second place after Round One of the AGL standings.
Other than the surprise result between Al Wahda and Fujairah, the rest of the contenders eased through with last year’s AGL runners-up Shabab Al Ahli Dubai stamping their class with a 3-0 away swamping of Hatta. Falling to Sharjah in the tiebreaker in this season’s Arabian Gulf Super Cup, Shabab Al Ahli seem to have hit the right note and eye a second win while hosting Fujairah on Friday.
The Red Knights opened on winger Yousuf Jaber’s fifth-minute goal and then added a second when the nifty young striker Mohammad Juma continued with his goalscoring ability this season in the 55th minute, while Brazilian Leonardo da Silva Souza — acquired this season from Al Wahda — netted his first for the club in the 73rd minute to complete the rout.
The champions Sharjah also got their AGL title defence off to a winning note with a 2-0 home result against new entrants Khor Fakkan. Sharjah, who started with a couple of losses in the season-opening Arabian Gulf Cup, showed maturity and verve at home in their 2-0 taming of Khor Fakkan.
Ryan Mendes gave the home side the lead in the 18th minute and then Cape Verde striker Ricardo Gomes — who had scored a hat-trick in their Arabian Gulf Cup encounter against Ajman the previous week — added a second in the 68th minute as the defending champions will look to continue winning when they travel to Kalba today.
Another former champion Al Ain also eased to a smooth three points following a hard-fought 3-2 win against Kalba. On Thursday, the Boss will be up against Al Wasl — who were held to a goalless draw by neighbours Al Nasr last week — to see if they can be more clinical before the rival goal in Thursday’s late night encounter.
In other matches, Al Nasr will travel to Ajman, while Al Dhafrah will be up against Bani Yas on Thursday, while Khor Fakkan will play Hatta on Friday.
Kalba v Sharjah, 6.30pm
Ajman v Al Nasr, 6.30pm
Al Dhafrah v Bani Yas, 9.15pm
Al Wasl v Al Ain, 9.15pm
Khor Fakkan v Hatta, 6.30pm
Shabab Al Ahli Dubai v Fujairah, 6.30pm
Al Wahda v Al Jazira, 9.15pm