Dubai: Former champions Al Ain will have their task cut out as only a win against Khor Fakkan can help the Boss clinch one of the play-off spots on offer in their return leg of the Arabian Gulf Cup on November 12-13.
Khor Fakkan rode on a fine performance from their strikers to return home with a 4-2 win against Al Ain at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium - leaving the stage open for an engrossing return leg this Friday. With four away goals to their name, the Eagles will need to play at the defensive best to ensure either a draw or a thin loss to advance to the actual competition.
The return leg matches will be held over two days with Bani Yas taking on Hatta, Ajman facing Fujairah and Al Jazira hosting Kalba on Thursday. On Friday, Khor Fakkan will welcome Al Ain at home, Al Dhafra will host Shabab Al Ahli Dubai while Al Wasl will clash with Al Wahda.
Al Nasr and Sharjah aren’t taking part in the qualifying round as under the new format of the Arabian Gulf Cup, the reigning champions of the Arabian Gulf Cup and the Arabian Gulf League qualify directly to the quarter-final.
Bani Yas already have one foot in the quarters after their 2-0 win away from home over Hatta in the first leg, thanks to first half goals from Joao Pedro and Mohammad Al Hammadi.
However, they aren’t exactly in their best form currently as they lost their last two matches in the Arabian Gulf League. After an impressive start to the league this season, the Sky Blues lost 3-1 to Al Jazira and drew goalless with Ajman.
The final match of Thursday will see Al Jazira welcome Kalba at Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium as the ‘Pride of Abu Dhabi’ will be looking to overturn a 2-1 deficit from the first leg, which saw Peniel Mlapa net a brace and Milos Kosanovic net Al Jazira’s sole goal.
Al Jazira have been inconsistent in the league campaign as they drew their first two games but went on to win the next two before going down to defending champions Sharjah in Round 5 of the AGL, last weekend.
Al Dhafra will be hosting Shabab Al Ahli Dubai at 6 pm on Friday. The hosts technically have a slightly better advantage with an away goal following their 1-1 draw in Dubai last month.
Al Dhafra too have slipped off the pace in recent weeks following two big successive defeats against Sharjah (5-0) and Al Ain (4-1) in the AGL. Shabab Al Ahli Dubai too have seemed to struggle following their 2-2 draw against 13th-placed Khor Fakkan.
November 12: Bani Yas vs Hatta; Ajman vs Fujairah; Al Jazira vs Kalba, 9 pm
November 13: Khor Fakkan vs Al Ain; Al Dhafra vs Shabab Al Ahli Dubai; Al Wasl vs Al Wahda, 9 pm
* All kick-offs from 6 pm unless otherwise mentioned