UAE Pro League review: Shabab Al-Ahli and Al-Ain lose 100% records

UAE Pro League review: Shabab Al-Ahli and Al-Ain lose 100% records
Sharjah forward Sebastian Tagliabue, right, has now scored 181 UAE Pro League goals. (X: @SharjahFC)
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Updated 09 October 2023
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UAE Pro League review: Shabab Al-Ahli and Al-Ain lose 100% records

UAE Pro League review: Shabab Al-Ahli and Al-Ain lose 100% records
  • Sharjah and UAE veteran Sebastian Tagliabue moves past 180 ADNOC Pro League goals with brace against Emirates

Prospects for an absorbing ADNOC Pro League title race increased after the fifth round’s rollercoaster action.

Holders Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai Club and dethroned champions Al-Ain lost their 100 percent records before the international break. The former required an electric solo effort from Yuri Cesar to hold Frank de Boer’s Al-Jazira to a 1-1 draw, while the latter’s 10 men were sunk by Bosnia midfielder Samir Memisevic’s 71st-minute thunderbolt in resurgent Al-Nasr’s 1-0 win.

UAE veteran Sebastian Tagliabue, meanwhile, moved past 180 ADNOC Pro League goals with a headed brace in Sharjah’s 3-1 victory at Andres Iniesta-less Emirates Club and third-placed Al-Wasl’s tailspin continued after a 1-1 stalemate with lowly Ajman.

Al-Wahda’s disappointing start under Pitso Mosimane continued in a late 2-1 reversal at Baniyas, leaving last term’s third-placed finishers seven points off top spot. Al-Bataeh returned to winning ways by beating strugglers Khor Fakkan 3-1 and promoted Hatta remain pointless after a 2-1 away defeat against Ittihad Kalba.

Here are Arab News’ top picks and a talking point from the latest action.

Player of the week: Sebastian Tagliabue (Sharjah)

Timeless Tagliabue proved there is plenty left in the tank.

The Argentina-born UAE center forward was predicted to quietly roll into richly deserved retirement during a final assignment with Sharjah. Much fanfare had greeted their summer recruitment of Al-Hilal forward Moussa Marega, compared with measured admiration for the 38-year-old’s arrival.

It was Tagliabue, however, who dominated this valuable victory at Emirates. His textbook conversion of two pinpoint Miralem Pjanic crosses gained extra value as they came from a round in which the top four all dropped points.

Tagliabue’s career has been one of immense achievement. Goals 180 and 181 for the UAE top-flight’s all-time second top scorer were identikit, the flicked 10th-minute opener going in off the post and firm second restoring the lead deep into first-half stoppage time.

Fifth-placed Sharjah have been uncertain in the league, but strong in the AFC Champions League. This is a continuation of last season’s mixed bag, which included four trophies but a dispiriting seventh-placed finish.

This result has taken them within four points of Shabab Al-Ahli. Plus, it showed coach Cosmin Olaroiu that he has more viable options in attack than he envisaged.

Sharjah’s title bid last season was undermined by the competition’s sixth-best attack, recording 25 fewer goals than Shabab Al-Ahli. Tagliabue and Marega scoring on Sunday provided hope of brighter — and more bountiful — times ahead.

Goal of the week: Yuri Cesar (Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai Club)

It takes a special player to bamboozle UAE center-back Khalifa Al-Hammadi.

Former Flamengo youngster Cesar did just that in Saturday’s fascinating battle at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.

Shabab Al-Ahli searched for a source of inspiration after Alejandro Pozuelo’s exceptional debut campaign proceeded with his 19th-minute deflected shot. That moved Major League Soccer’s 2020 MVP on to six goal contributions in five top-flight run-outs.

The champions trailed at the break. Their deficit, however, was ended in spectacular fashion in the 48th minute.

A high press under Shabab Al-Ahli’s new boss Marko Nikolic resulted in an uncharacteristically loose pass in the corner from Al-Hammadi. This error would be compounded moments later when Cesar picked up possession just inside the penalty box from ex-Crystal Palace and Serbia midfielder Luka Milivojevic’s shoveled pass.

He stood up Al-Hammadi, the UAE’s youngest player when they made the 2019 AFC Asian Cup’s semi-finals, rolled his foot over the ball at speed, and forced the off-balance defender to the floor. Added joy followed when he nutmegged international goalkeeper Ali Khaseif for an impudent close-range finish.

This was a memorable eighth top-flight strike in 44 run-outs for a contemporary of Real Madrid megastar Vinicius Jr. who has struggled for consistency at Rashid Stadium.

It also came in a contest that showcased Shabab Al-Ahli’s determination not to be pushovers during their title defense, and fourth-placed Jazira’s reinforced steel under De Boer.

Coach of the week: Mirel Radoi (Al-Bataeh)

Timing is everything in football management.

Just as initial murmurs of discontent had grown about Mirel Radoi’s inconsistent opening, they were shushed by Al-Bataeh’s vital victory.

The ex-Romania tactician — who tasted repeat glory as a player at Al-Ain — needed a result against fellow strugglers Khor Fakkan. Friday’s hosts had lost their previous four matches, sinking to 11th in the league and going out 7-1 on aggregate to Al-Ain in ADIB Cup’s opening stage.

A determined Al-Bataeh would, however, blow their opposition away. They dominated the attempts count 19/7 and boasted 59 percent possession.

Alvaro de Oliveira’s penalty, plus tap-ins from Mohammed Al-Hammadi and Cameroon forward Anatole Abang, came in a punishing period either side of halftime.

Radoi can, surely, plan for Oct. 27’s restart against second-bottom Ajman.

Intriguing international stoppage awaits

The ADNOC Pro League has been put on pause for almost three weeks.

But, different domestic and international matters provide plentiful intrigue during the interregnum.

Breaks in action gift space to think and plot for club boards unsettled by disappointing beginnings.

Ajman must search for solutions after an unacceptable slump from sixth in 2022/23, to 13th on two points. Al-Wahda can, rightly, expect to be much higher than 10th and introspection is guaranteed at a bottom-placed Hatta, who have become only the second club since the 2013-14 season to start with five reversals.

Positive momentum, meanwhile, must be maintained by Paulo Bento’s UAE. The ex-South Korea and Portugal tactician opened last month with a 4-1 friendly victory over Keylor Navas’ Costa Rica.

A Dubai training camp contains non-competitive clashes against neighbors Kuwait (Oct. 12) and Lebanon (Oct. 17). Bright Al-Ain prospect Eissa Khalfan, 20, is in the mix.

Essential insights must be gleaned ahead of World Cup 2026 qualifying’s November kick-off and the winter’s Asian Cup.


Jofra Archer stars as England beat Pakistan in second T20

Jofra Archer stars as England beat Pakistan in second T20
Updated 25 May 2024
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Jofra Archer stars as England beat Pakistan in second T20

Jofra Archer stars as England beat Pakistan in second T20
  • Skipper Jos Buttler, who smashed 84 off 51 balls, was the star of the England batting
  • Babar Azam praises Pakistani bowlers but says that the team could not finish well

BIRMINGHAM: Jofra Archer claimed two wickets on his long-awaited return to international cricket as England beat Pakistan by 23 runs at Edgbaston to move 1-0 up in the four-match T20 series.
England captain Jos Buttler won man-of-the-match after he smashed 84 off 51 balls to set the hosts a target of 184.
But it was Archer’s return that caught the eye as he made a case for selection in next month’s T20 World Cup in the United States and West Indies no harm.
The fast bowler has been beset by elbow injuries since his starring role in helping England win the 50-over World Cup in 2019.
On his first international appearance for 14 months, and first on home soil since 2020, Archer bounced back from an expensive first over, which went for 15 runs, to finish with two for 28.
“I thought Jofra Archer was brilliant,” said Buttler. “You could see his emotion taking wickets for England again but we need to temper those expectations because he’s not going to be the same straight away.
“I’m really pleased with the whole bowling group.”
Muhammad Rizwan was removed in the first over by Moeen Ali and Reece Topley took three wickets for 41.
Buttler was the star of the England batting with three sixes and eight fours.
He was ably supported by 37 from Will Jacks and Jonny Bairstow’s 21 but England failed to build on the platform given to them by their skipper.
Five wickets fell for just 25 runs as Pakistan battled back with Shaheen Shah Afridi the pick of the bowlers, taking 3-36.
“We got them to a par score, our bowlers bowled very well and we had our moments when we were batting,” said Pakistan captain Babar Azam.
Fakhar Zaman’s 45 from 21 balls gave the Pakistan chase some impetus, but after he departed the pace of Archer, Topley and Chris Jordan ripped through the tourists’ tail with four balls to spare.
“We didn’t finish well. We had a small partnership, myself and Fakhar but we didn’t get any other 40 or 50 partnerships that England did,” added Azam.
England lead the four-match series 1-0 after the first match was washed out on Wednesday.


Crespo’s Al Ain beat Yokohama 5-1 to win Asian Champions League

Crespo’s Al Ain beat Yokohama 5-1 to win Asian Champions League
Updated 45 min 48 sec ago
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Crespo’s Al Ain beat Yokohama 5-1 to win Asian Champions League

Crespo’s Al Ain beat Yokohama 5-1 to win Asian Champions League
  • Al Ain won the inaugural Champions League final in 2003 and were runners-up in 2005 and 2016
  • Crespo had promised “hell” for Yokohama and thousands of fans in white robes and headdresses let off flares and chanted outside before packing out Hazza bin Zayed Stadium

AL-AIN, UAE: Hernan Crespo’s Al Ain steamrollered 10-man Yokohama F-Marinos 5-1 in the Asian Champions League final return leg to lift the trophy for the second time in their history on Saturday.
The hosts trailed 2-1 from the away fixture but two goals from Soufiane Rahimi, a Kaku penalty and Kodjo Laba’s late double ensured a 6-3 aggregate victory after Yokohama goalkeeper William Popp saw red just before half-time.
Al Ain, the United Arab Emirates’ most successful club, won the inaugural Champions League final in 2003 and were runners-up in 2005 and 2016.
Harry Kewell’s Yokohama were attempting to become the fourth Japanese winners after Gamba Osaka, Kashima Antlers and three-time winners Urawa Red Diamonds.
The win will be all the sweeter for Crespo after the 2005 European Champions League final, when the ex-Argentina international scored twice for AC Milan before Kewell’s Liverpool came back to win on penalties.
Crespo had promised “hell” for Yokohama and thousands of fans in white robes and headdresses let off flares and chanted outside before packing out Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.
With temperatures still hovering above 30 degrees Celsius (97 degrees Fahrenheit) at the 8:00 p.m. kick-off, Al Ain were ahead after just nine minutes.
Yahia Nader’s sweet backheel wrong-footed the defense and tournament top-scorer Rahimi rifled a low shot into the net for his 12th of the competition.
Ken Matsubara had a fizzing shot tipped wide but Al Ain doubled their advantage in the 34th minute after Shinnosuke Hatanaka brought down Rahimi in the box.
After a VAR review, Uzbek referee Ilgiz Tantashev pointed to the spot and Paraguay international Kaku smashed it into the bottom right, sparking delirium in the stands.
Al Ain’s joy was doused as Yokohama’s Yan Matheus stole a bouncing ball from Kouame Kouadio, then turned the defender inside-out and finished left-footed to make it 2-1 and 3-3 on aggregate.
But the half — which stretched to an extraordinary 62 minutes — finished badly for Yokohama when goalkeeper William Popp felled the on-rushing Rahimi and was sent off deep into injury time.
After the restart, a depleted Yokohama lived dangerously when Hatanaka, under pressure from Rahimi, parried a deep cross onto his own crossbar.
The visitors were creaking and on 67 minutes, Rahimi picked up a rebound, rounded a defender and lashed it past substitute ‘keeper Fuma Shirasaka at his near post.
The goal knocked the stuffing out of Yokohama, who also had Hatanaka stretchered off, and Togolese substitute Laba pierced their porous defense twice in another long spell of injury time.
Al Ain had already won bragging rights over neighboring Saudi Arabia, whose teams spent more than a billion dollars on players including Cristiano Ronaldo last year, with their Asian campaign.
Crespo’s side ousted Ronaldo’s Al Nassr in the quarter-finals before halting Al Hilal’s top-flight-record streak of 34 consecutive wins when they met in the semis.
With their victory, Al Ain also reach the new-look, 32-team Club World Cup, whose inaugural staging is scheduled for June and July next year in the United States.


Man United win the FA Cup after stunning Man City 2-1 in the final

Man United win the FA Cup after stunning Man City 2-1 in the final
Updated 25 May 2024
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Man United win the FA Cup after stunning Man City 2-1 in the final

Man United win the FA Cup after stunning Man City 2-1 in the final
  • United’s first silverware of the season deprived crosstown rival City of the first back-to-back English league-cup doubles
  • United also qualified for the Europa League next season

LONDON: Manchester United won the FA Cup after stunning defending champion Manchester City 2-1 in the final at Wembley on Saturday.
United’s first silverware of the season deprived crosstown rival City of the first back-to-back English league-cup doubles. United also qualified for the Europa League next season.
The final was a repeat of last year’s which City won 2-1, and Pep Guardiola’s team did not give up their trophy without a fight.
Alejandro Garnacho opened the scoring in the 30th minute after mistakes from City defender Josko Gvardiol and goalkeeper Stefan Ortega.
Kobbie Mainoo then added a second goal in the 39th to spark passionate celebrations from manager Erik ten Hag, whose job was under intense scrutiny going into the final.
United were in control at halftime but City piled the pressure on in the second half and eventually got back into the game through substitute Jeremy Doku’s long range shot into the bottom corner in the 87th.
By that point Erling Haaland had hit the bar, Kyle Walker had forced goalkeeper Andre Onana into two outstretched saves, and substitute Julian Alvarez missed the target from close range with only the keeper to beat.
It is United’s 13th FA Cup, one behind Arsenal’s record of 14. And it is Ten Hag’s second trophy in as many years at the club after winning the League Cup last year.
Players and staff embraced him on the field after the final whistle as the Dutchman managed to end a troubled campaign on a high.
Watching on were the United co-owners, Americans Joel and Avram Glazer and British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe.
Speculation about Ten Hag’s future dominated the buildup, and it was widely anticipated he would lose his job regardless of the result after overseeing United’s worst league season in 34 years.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the team and winning the cup,” he said before kickoff.
It was a very different story for City. After becoming the first English team to win four titles in a row, they were aiming to set a new benchmark by completing back-to-back doubles. City’s parade in Manchester on Monday to celebrate the historic league success will not include the FA Cup.
City dominated possession in the first half but United posed the more threatening attacks and took the lead through Garnacho.
The Argentine winger sparked panic in City’s defense when chasing onto a hopeful punt from Diogo Dalot deep in his half. Gvardiol was quicker to the ball, but his headed back pass went over the onrushing City goalkeeper Ortega to leave Garnacho with an open net to tap home.
If that goal benefited from luck, United’s second came from a slick attack, with Garnacho at the heart of it again when cutting in from the right wing and playing in Bruno Fernandes.
The United captain hit a first-time no-look pass to Mainoo, who coolly slotted past Ortega.
“It’s been a tough season with ups and downs. This is the only thing we’ve had to look forward to,” Mainoo said. “We knew we had to come together. The preparation for this game has been amazing. We’ve shown we can compete and win games.”


Leclerc claims Monaco pole to end Verstappen’s record sequence

Leclerc claims Monaco pole to end Verstappen’s record sequence
Updated 25 May 2024
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Leclerc claims Monaco pole to end Verstappen’s record sequence

Leclerc claims Monaco pole to end Verstappen’s record sequence
  • It brought Leclerc his third Monaco pole position and ended Verstappen’s run of seven straight poles this year
  • Three-time world champion Verstappen struggled for Red Bull after hitting the barriers on his final fast lap

MONACO: Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc snatched pole position at his home Monaco Grand Prix on Saturday, as championship leader Max Verstappen could only finish sixth fastest.
The 26-year-old Monegasque driver, who has never managed a podium finish at his home race, clocked a best lap of one minute and 10.270 seconds to outpace Australian Oscar Piastri of McLaren by 0.154 seconds.
It brought Leclerc his third Monaco pole position and ended Verstappen’s run of seven straight poles this year and a record-equalling eight in succession, shared with three-time champion Ayrton Senna.
Three-time world champion Verstappen struggled for Red Bull after hitting the barriers on his final fast lap.
“It was so nice,” said a relieved Leclerc after a tense and thrilling qualifying.
“I’m really happy about my lap. The excitement was so high, but I know from the past that qualifying is not everything. The win is the target.”
Leclerc’s Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz was third ahead of Lando Norris in the second McLaren, Mercedes’ George Russell and Verstappen.
“It was close,” said Piastri. “If you took the second half of my first lap and the first half of my second one it would have been enough for pole!“
Sainz added: “I’ve struggled all weekend with confidence in the car so it’s an improvement. I just wish I was fighting for pole.”
Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton was seventh in the second Mercedes ahead of RB’s Yuki Tsunoda, Alex Albon of Williams and Pierre Gasly of Alpine.
In near-perfect Riviera conditions with sunshine and temperatures of 48 degrees celsius on the track and 21 in the air, Hamilton led Russell and the rest out of the pits.
As the Mercedes ran two preparatory laps, it was Tsunoda on top for RB before Hamilton took command only for the rapidly-tumbling times to deliver Verstappen, Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg on top, the two Haas drivers retaining their positions until Russell took over.
Leclerc, disappointed by Ferrari’s decision to delay his entry, was 13th before he recorded a fast lap to go top in 1:11.653, a tenth clear of Magnussen and Hulkenberg.
In a fiercely-contested session, Hamilton jumped to second, but Perez was 14th and Norris 18th with only a minute remaining before, in a frantic finish to Q1, the Briton climbed to safety, but Perez was out along with Alonso.
The Mexican was 18th making an early exit for the second year running along with the two-time champion, in his Aston Martin, Williams’ Logan Sargeant, Valtteri Bottas and his Sauber team-mate Zhou Guanyu.
“We’ve struggled all the way through,” said Perez. “It is so tight, the margins I thought I could make the top five.”
Norris was first out for Q2, but Sainz swiftly went quickest ahead of Verstappen in another tight tussle with barely a second separating the top 14 and the Alpines suddenly flying, Gasly claiming a place in Q3 in fifth. “Let’s go, let’s go!” he cried.
Piastri, looking confident, then clocked a 1:10.756 only to be beaten by team-mate Norris as the McLarens took control ahead of Leclerc and Russell before another busy finale saw Esteban Ocon of Alpine, Hulkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo of RB, Lance Stroll in the second Aston Martin and Magnussen eliminated.
Sainz was first out for the top ten shootout, followed by Hamilton who clocked 1:10.975, an impressive lap that was blown away immediately by Leclerc in 1:10.418, a lap nine-tenths faster than Verstappen’s pole time last year.
The Dutchman’s first timed lap left him third after losing time in the final sector. “Still the same issues in Turns Five and Ten,” he reported.
As conditions continued to improve, Sainz and Verstappen chose to run again on a traffic-free lap, the rest following.
Hamilton improved to take fourth, but Russell beat him and then Verstappen glanced a barrier before Leclerc improved to 1:10.418 to take a dramatic pole ahead of Piastri, the Italian team’s 250th pole position in Formula One.


Skipper Jos Buttler the bedrock as England set Pakistan 184 to win T20

Skipper Jos Buttler the bedrock as England set Pakistan 184 to win T20
Updated 25 May 2024
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Skipper Jos Buttler the bedrock as England set Pakistan 184 to win T20

Skipper Jos Buttler the bedrock as England set Pakistan 184 to win T20
  • Buttler smashed 84 off 51 balls, but his team failed to build on that and lost 5 wickets for 25 runs
  • Shaheen Shah Afridi took 3-36, as Pakistan try to build on their 2-1 win against Ireland this month

BIRMINGHAM: England captain Jos Buttler smashed 84 off 51 balls as the hosts set Pakistan a target of 184 to win the second T20 international at Edgbaston on Saturday.
Buttler was ably supported by 37 from Will Jacks and Jonny Bairstow’s 21 but England failed to build on the platform given to them by their skipper.
England were 144-2 with five overs to spare before Bairstow departed.
But five wickets fell for just 25 runs as Pakistan battled back to give the tourists a chance of chasing down the target.
Shaheen Shah Afridi was the pick of the bowlers, taking 3-36.
Jofra Archer will form part of the England bowling attack in his first home international appearance since 2020.
Fast bowler Archer has been beset by elbow injuries since his starring role in helping England win the 50-over World Cup in 2019.
However, the 29-year-old’s return could be a timely boost ahead of the T20 World Cup in the United States next month.
“Excited for Jofra, long road for him but looks great and looks fit,” Buttler said before the match.
Haris Rauf and Shadab Khan have been included for Pakistan, who are looking to build on a 2-1 series win over Ireland earlier this month.
The first T20 of the four-match series was washed out on Wednesday.
England: 1 Jos Buttler (capt/wk), 2 Phil Salt, 3 Will Jacks, 4 Jonny Bairstow, 5 Harry Brook, 6 Moeen Ali, 7 Liam Livingstone, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 Jofra Archer, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Reece Topley
Pakistan: 1 Babar Azam (capt), 2 Saim Ayub, 3 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 4 Fakhar Zaman, 5 Shadab Khan, 6 Azam Khan, 7 Iftikhar Ahmed, 8 Imad Wasim, 9 Shaheen Shah Afridi, 10 Haris Rauf, 11 Mohammad Amir