Dubai: The big guns of the UAE football will have to raise the bar as the fourth round of the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) resumes this weekend after the short international break.
After an early stutter in the season-opening Arabian Gulf Cup, Sharjah have got themselves off to a strong start while winning all three matches for maximum nine points at the top of the 14-team standings.
Seven-time champions Shabab Al Ahli Dubai are second on goal difference from Ajman with an identical seven points followed by record-holding 13-time winners Al Ain and new entrants Fujairah with six points apiece after two wins each.
Sharjah have been inspirational with coach Abdul Aziz Al Anbari leading the way with The King looking strong through maximum nine points. They started their title defence with a 2-0 win at home against new entrants Khor Fakkan, followed by a 3-1 away result against Kalba.
But their fighting, last-gasp 3-2 win against Al Ain in Round Three had all the bearings of a team that was willing to fight till the end. “We have always relied on the entire team to deliver, and this time against Al Ain it was no different,” Al Anbari told media at the media briefing.
“This was one match that could have gone either way. But that is when we all stood together as a team, and having a top-quality player like Igor (Coronado) only helped our cause,” he added.
Coronado scored two and set up the third as Al Ain felt denied by a VAR ruling that disallowed a goal midway through the second half. “These are now part of our sport and we need to know how to adjust and adapt to new technologies,” Al Anbari said.
“The same thing could have happened to us as well. But the truth is that we had a good game and eventually it is the better team that took the three points,” he added.
Al Ain, meanwhile, will have to put this blink behind them as they entertain Hatta in Saturday’s early match. Second-placed Shabab Al Ahli Dubai will host high-flying and unbeaten Bani Yas, while Al Wahda will be looking at full points when Al Nasr make the trip to the capital on Saturday.
Former champions Al Jazira will see how best they can manage full points in Khor Fakkan after coach Juergen Streppel became the earliest casualty so far this season, while current occupiers of the drop zone Al Wasl will try and redeem themselves as they host Sharjah at their Al Zabeel base in this weekend’s derby.
Al Dhafrah v Ajman, 6.30pm
Kalba v Fujairah, 9pm
Al Ain v Hatta, 6.30pm
Al Wahda v Al Nasr, 6.30pm
Shabab Al Ahli Dubai v Bani Yas, 6.30pm
Khor Fakkan v Al Jazira, 6.30pm
Al Wasl v Sharjah, 9pm