Shabab Al-Ahli hit Emirates for 7 as Khrbin shines for Al-Wahda in UAE Pro League

Shabab Al-Ahli hit Emirates for 7 as Khrbin shines for Al-Wahda in UAE Pro League
Omar Khrbin scored twice to earn Al-Wahda a 2-2 draw against leaders Al-Wasl. (X/@AlWahdaFCC)
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Updated 10 December 2023
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Shabab Al-Ahli hit Emirates for 7 as Khrbin shines for Al-Wahda in UAE Pro League

Shabab Al-Ahli hit Emirates for 7 as Khrbin shines for Al-Wahda in UAE Pro League
  • Leaders Al-Wasl drop valuable points while 9-man Al-Jazira thrashed at home

DUBAI: Champions Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai Club ominously smashed seven past sinking Emirates Club and Frank de Boer’s Al-Jazira suffered a consequential defeat in matchweek 10 of the ADNOC Pro League.

UAE prospect Harib Abdalla was one of three players to produce a brace for the holders when second-bottom Emirates – minus Spanish star player Andres Iniesta – endured a sixth-successive defeat, this time 7-0.

There were contrasting emotions at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium when nine-men Al-Jazira were downed 5-1 by fast-improving Ajman, with an immediate board restructure being announced by the seventh-placed side.

Leaders Al-Wasl were pegged back from 2-0 up to a 2-2 draw by Al-Wahda, Hernan Crespo’s Al-Ain salvaged a heated 2-2 stalemate at Al-Ittihad Kalba in a contest played out with 10 men apiece for the entire second half, and Sharjah recovered from a dispiriting AFC Champions League elimination with a 4-1 beating of bottom-placed Hatta, highlighted by two-goal Guinean youngster Ousmane Camara’s bicycle kick.

Dark-horses Al-Bataeh returned to winning ways with a 2-1 victory against Baniyas, while Alfred Schreuder’s sleeping giants Al-Nasr failed to win again, suffering a 3-1 defeat at Khor Fakkan.

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

Player of the week: Omar Khrbin (Al-Wahda)

Some players are destined not to receive their dues.

This may feel incongruous when discussing Omar Khrbin, a maverick forward previously bestowed the 2017 AFC Player of the Year gong.

When the ADNOC Pro League’s leading lights are debated, Al-Wahda’s premier attacker is usually absent. Emirati internationals Ali Mabkhout and Fabio De Lima will be included and so, too, the likes of Al-Ain’s Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba, Sharjah’s Miralem Pjanic, and Shabab Al-Ahli’s Fede Cartabia.

But not the Syria international who has consistently delivered top performances since an unheralded acquisition by Al-Dhafra back in 2016.

The latest came with a brace in Friday’s draw against first-placed Al-Wasl, delivering a penalty kick and instinctive close-range effort to take something from a clash in which his current employers found themselves two goals in arrears, on home soil, by 19 minutes.

Khrbin’s recent career arc speaks volumes. The enigmatic forward has bounced between Al-Wahda and Shabab Al-Ahli since returning to the UAE from a similarly undulating stint at Saudi Arabia heavyweights Al-Hilal.

Yet, a creditable 54 goals and 25 assists have been produced in 91 ADNOC Pro League runouts. Only Laba (eight) has netted more often than Khrbin (seven) this season.

The tally is given further credit because the 29-year-old is not a traditional center forward – his expansive game is more nuanced than that.

Fifth-place Al-Wahda can look to him in confidence during their ADIB Cup quarter-final decider versus Al-Jazira and typically tempestuous derby with Al-Ain.

Goal of the week: Harib Abdalla (Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai Club)

Strikes of grander quality than Abdalla’s appeared through Camara’s acrobatics for Sharjah and Al-Ain winger Soufiane Rahimi’s rocket-fuelled free-kick leveller.

No goal, however, contained richer promise than Abdalla’s first against Emirates. For club, or country.

Shabab Al-Ahli had already let loose by the time their emergent 21-year-old phenomenon got involved in the scoring.

Goal No. 6 for Marko Nikolic’s holders came via Yahya Al-Ghassani’s burst of acceleration and adroit cutback to his UAE colleague. Abdalla did the business with a low shot from just inside the area.

There is a palpable sense that if this wing duo ignite in Qatar in the imminent Asian Cup, a third-consecutive semi-final run becomes tangible for Paulo Bento’s ascendant side.

The same also applies domestically for a Shabab Al-Ahli who emphatically rebounded from a potentially damaging 3-0 defeat to rivals Al-Ain.

Coach of the week: Daniel Isaila (Ajman)

Ajman are reaping the rewards of swift course correction.

The summer departure of history-making head coach Goran Tufegdzic to Al-Nasr was followed by the curious capture of Caio Zanardi, a Brazilian previously undertaking brief stints in charge of the aforementioned Blue Wave, Khor Fakkan, and Al-Bataeh.

Last term’s sixth-place finishers devolved into relegation contenders. That was, however, before October’s decisive hire of Daniel Isaila.

The Romanian, who led Baniyas to a stunning second-place finish in the 2020 to 2021 season, has registered just one defeat in six league matches, with depleted Al-Jazira being put to the sword at the weekend.

Bahrain winger Ali Madan excelled via a goal and assist against nine men.

The Orange Brigade can now look up from 11th under Isaila, rather than disconcertingly looking over their shoulder under Zanardi.

Does ADNOC Pro League have a problem with promoted sides?

An interrupted ADNOC Pro League will not reach the halfway point until February, but alarm bells are already ringing at promoted outfits.

Bottom side Hatta’s sole victory came against Emirates Club in 13th, who last gained a point on Sept. 29. A four-point gap to Al-Nasr can, surely, only extend once ex-Ajax and Al-Ain supremo Schreuder gets further time to imprint his philosophy.

That is not a new story. Al-Urooba and Emirates received instant returns to the First Division League in the 2021 to 2022 campaign and only Al-Dhafra’s remarkably low 12 points kept Al-Bataeh from replicating doomed Dibba Al-Fujairah’s fate last season.

Emirates’ gamble on Barcelona alumni Iniesta and Paco Alcacer has yet to gain reward on the pitch, while Hatta’s revolving door policy on recruitment has not helped. Neither CVs of bosses Lluis Planaguma and Fabio Viviani inspire belief, either.

Baniyas’ sixth place in the 2018 to 2019 season was the last time a newbie competed with aplomb. It is a situation which requires reflection from UAE football, at large.


Embattled Bayern Munich appoint new sports director to oversee shakeup

Embattled Bayern Munich appoint new sports director to oversee shakeup
Updated 19 sec ago
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Embattled Bayern Munich appoint new sports director to oversee shakeup

Embattled Bayern Munich appoint new sports director to oversee shakeup
  • Bavarian powerhouse said the 50-year-old Eberl signed a contract through June 2027 and will begin on Friday
  • Eberl will be charged with rejuvenating a team that has lost its aura of dominance

BERLIN: Stung by the prospect of a first season without a major trophy for 12 years, Bayern Munich appointed Max Eberl as their new sporting director to oversee a major shakeup.

The Bavarian powerhouse said on Monday the 50-year-old Eberl signed a contract through June 2027 and will begin on Friday. He was to appear at a press conference with club president Herbert Hainer and chief executive Jan-Christian Dreesen on Tuesday.

Eberl will be charged with rejuvenating a team that has lost its aura of dominance and no longer demonstrates the assured belief it used to as the best in Germany.

“Not only does he have decades of experience in football management, but he also started playing football at FC Bayern and became a professional here,” Hainer said. “We are convinced that he will successfully form and shape the future of this club.”

Eberl, a former right back, made only one Bundesliga appearance for Bayern in October 1991, when he was substituted off at halftime in a 3-2 loss at Stuttgart.

He went to Bochum in January 1994, played for Greuther Fürth for 3½ seasons, then joined Borussia Mönchengladbach to start a 23-year association with the club.

After finishing his playing career, Eberl enjoyed success as the sporting director at Gladbach from 2008 until he quit abruptly in January 2022, citing burnout. He started at Leipzig in the same role eight months later but was fired last September for “his failure to commit to the club.”

At Leipzig, Eberl led a rebuild that saw established players like Josko Gvardiol and Dominik Szoboszlai depart for big sums, while young talents like Loïs Openda and Paris Saint-Germain loanee Xavi Simons arrived to star this season.

Eberl’s alleged lack of commitment to Leipzig likely had to do with the speculation linking him with Bayern, where his work in a managerial capacity at Gladbach had long been admired.

Eberl was already a target for Bayern before it appointed Hasan Salihamidzic as sporting director in 2017.

Salihamidzic was fired hours after Bayern clinched the league title last season, along with chief executive Oliver Kahn. Both men paid the price for the problems that Eberl will be expected to address.

Bayern won the Bundesliga last season only because Borussia Dortmund squandered their chance on the final day. The decision to axe Kahn and Salihamidzic was taken earlier, after a season in which the team’s decline had been plain to see.

Former chief financial officer Jan-Christian Dreesen took over as CEO and Bayern hired former Salzburg sporting director Christoph Freund to take over from Salihamidzic, though he didn’t start officially until Sept. 1, and wasn’t involved in the summer transfer business.

Eberl and Freund will be expected to work together, with a priority being the hiring of a new coach following Bayern’s decision not to continue with Thomas Tuchel next season after the team lost three games in a row.

Tuchel said on Friday he wasn’t the “only problem” at Bayern and his employers were unable to contradict him over the weekend.

“If FC Bayern loses three times in a row, then we all have to question ourselves; the team, the coach, we in management, we do it as well, it’s not in question at all,” Hainer said Saturday. “But you will see, we will draw the right analysis and conclusions and do the right thing.”

Asked why Bayern had worked their way through three highly regarded German coaches in Tuchel, Julian Nagelsmann and Hansi Flick since 2021, Hainer replied that the demands at Bayern were very high and there was constant pressure to do well.

“But I believe that at the end of the day, the formula for success at FC Bayern is that we are never satisfied with where we are, and then we continue to move forward,” Hainer said.

Bayer Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso – a former Bayern player – is the favorite as Tuchel’s replacement, though former Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane and Stuttgart’s Sebastian Hoeneß have also been linked. The latter is the nephew of Bayern honorary president Uli Hoeneß and has led Stuttgart to third place in the Bundesliga after saving it from relegation last season.

Hainer placed the onus on the new coach for success by saying the Bayern squad is “not un-coachable.”

Eberl will be under pressure from the start.


Investigation into Red Bull boss overshadows new F1 season as Verstappen aims for fourth title

Investigation into Red Bull boss overshadows new F1 season as Verstappen aims for fourth title
Updated 27 February 2024
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Investigation into Red Bull boss overshadows new F1 season as Verstappen aims for fourth title

Investigation into Red Bull boss overshadows new F1 season as Verstappen aims for fourth title
  • The team’s parent company is facing calls from senior F1 figures such as Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and McLaren counterpart Zak Brown for the investigation — conducted by an external lawyer — to be handled transparently
  • On the track, Red Bull again seems to be the team to beat after a season in which Verstappen and Perez won all but one race

MANAMA: A still-unresolved investigation into the boss of Formula 1’s champion team is overshadowing the start of the new season this week at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

It’s been three weeks since Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was confirmed to be under investigation over alleged misconduct toward a team employee. No timeline has been given for a decision on his future.

The team’s parent company is facing calls from senior F1 figures such as Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and McLaren counterpart Zak Brown for the investigation — conducted by an external lawyer — to be handled transparently.

In a letter to the team, Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Farley insisted on a resolution and said Ford was “frustrated by the lack of full transparency surrounding this matter.” Ford is set to become Red Bull’s engine supplier in 2026.

The Red Bull drinks company said on Feb. 5 it was investigating Horner but didn’t give any details. Horner denies any wrongdoing and has not been suspended from his role. He has continued to be the face of the F1 team, declaring “business as normal.”

Horner has led Red Bull since its 2005 debut in F1, and had a prominent role at the team’s car launch — far more visible than three-time defending champion driver Max Verstappen or his teammate Sergio Perez. Horner was on site for three days of preseason testing in Bahrain last week.

“For everyone, it’s nice, of course, when things are resolved,” Verstappen said Friday at testing.

On the track, Red Bull again seems to be the team to beat after a season in which Verstappen and Perez won all but one race. Verstappen finished with a record 19 wins. While most teams seem to have used the 2023 Red Bull as inspiration for their new cars, Red Bull has evolved, using a slim sidepod design that Mercedes previously tried with little success.

Red Bull was strong throughout the three days of testing, though Ferrari drivers Carlos Sainz Jr. and Charles Leclerc posted the fastest times on the second and third days. Times set in testing are generally considered a poor guide for racing.

HAMILTON’S SWITCH

Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton is going into his last season with Mercedes ahead of joining Ferrari next year.

For the 39-year-old Hamilton, there’s the hope that Ferrari allow him to fight for an eighth title after Mercedes was uncompetitive in the last two years. It’s also making a childhood dream come true. At testing in Bahrain, Hamilton reminisced about driving Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari in a video game as a child.

“We’ve had an absolutely incredible journey together, we’ve created history within the sport, and I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved,” Hamilton said of his time with Mercedes. “I’m writing my story and I felt like it was time to start a new chapter.”

The sudden announcement shook up F1 and leaves some leading drivers unsure of their places for next year. Sainz was expecting a contract extension at Ferrari but is making way for Hamilton to partner Leclerc.

The open seat at Mercedes has fueled speculation about drivers ranging from 41-year-old two-time champion Fernando Alonso, still at Aston Martin, to the 17-year-old Mercedes junior driver Kimi Antonelli, who is making his Formula 2 debut this week.

ANDRETTI’S FIGHT

Michael Andretti and General Motors are still developing a car for F1 but they don’t have a spot on the grid yet.

The governing body, the FIA, has approved Andretti’s application to become the 11th team but F1 rejected the proposed US team for 2025 and 2026, arguing it would not be competitive — something Andretti and GM dispute.

In GM and its Cadillac brand, Andretti has the backing of one of the world’s leading auto manufacturers, and GM has applied to be an F1 engine supplier from 2028. “Our joint teams are continuing to develop our car at pace,” GM Racing director Jim Campbell said this month.

The series’ existing American team, Haas, looks to be headed for a difficult season, its first since Guenther Steiner — a star of the “Drive To Survive” series on Netflix — was dropped as team principal last month. Haas drivers Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg were consistently among the slowest over the three days of testing.

SATURDAY START

Don’t tune in on a Sunday to watch the race. The Bahrain GP and the following week’s race in Saudi Arabia are being held on Saturday, with qualifying on Friday.

That’s because the Muslim holy month of Ramadan starts on March 10, the Sunday of the race week in Saudi Arabia, and that race was moved forward a day. F1 rules stipulate there has to be a week between races, so the Bahrain Grand Prix had to move up, too.

Last year’s race in Las Vegas set a precedent when it was held on a Saturday to maximize the audience in the US and around the world. That was the first F1 race held on a day other than Sunday since 1985.


Klopp’s last dance has one trophy and the Liverpool manager is targeting more

Klopp’s last dance has one trophy and the Liverpool manager is targeting more
Updated 27 February 2024
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Klopp’s last dance has one trophy and the Liverpool manager is targeting more

Klopp’s last dance has one trophy and the Liverpool manager is targeting more
  • References to Klopp’s last dance have started to trend on social media, likening his Liverpool farewell to Michael Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls in 1998, when they won the NBA championship
  • The League Cup was his eighth trophy, among them a full set of major trophies including the Premier League and Champions League

LONDON: Jurgen Klopp’s last dance at Liverpool is off to the perfect start.

Klopp steps down as manager at the end of the season but he and Liverpool have locked up the first trophy of a possible four.

After a heavily depleted team defied the odds to win the English League Cup final by beating Chelsea 1-0 in extra time, Klopp is determined to win more silverware and the players are determined to help him.

“We just want to give our all for him. We always did,” defender Joe Gomez said. “But now when the finishing line is in sight it adds that extra emphasis. It’s special and hopefully it’s the first (trophy) of a few we can get.”

References to Klopp’s last dance have started to trend on social media, likening his Liverpool farewell to Michael Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls in 1998, when they won the NBA championship. The season was documented in the Netflix series, “The Last Dance.”

Since Klopp was hired in 2015, he has transformed a sleeping giant into a force again. The League Cup was his eighth trophy, among them a full set of major trophies including the Premier League and Champions League.

And Liverpool might not be finished. They lead the Premier League, and are still in the FA Cup and Europa League.

“I couldn’t care less about my legacy. I’m not here to create one,” Klopp said on Sunday. “As a manager of a football club, you are there to do the job actually.”

But the League Cup final showed Klopp will leave the club in good shape. Seven of his players on the day were aged 21 or under. When Virgil van Dijk headed in the winner in the 118th minute, he had three academy players beside him.

“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves but we are in every competition and we are going to try to win every game,” Gomez said. “That’s the target and we will go again.”

Beside the players, Liverpool fans are savoring their final moments with Klopp.

Supporters carried flags and banners with messages of thanks to their outgoing manager as they made the short walk from Wembley Park subway station to Wembley Stadium. Singing loudly, it was a party atmosphere long before kickoff and they are hoping for one long party before finally saying goodbye.

“It has been a bit sad for everyone, but I think everyone now thinks we’re going to push on and do even better than we would have done (this season),” Liverpool fan Nick Knight told The Associated Press.

His father, Andrew, added: “I think he means everything (to Liverpool). Within a few weeks or months of him arriving it was obvious they were a perfect fit and the type of football he played — high energy, playing to the final whistle — it was everything as a Liverpool fan you wanted to see.”

The fans showed their appreciation long after the final whistle as they serenaded Klopp and his players on the field.

“It’s not a problem if the manager leaves or whatever, (but) if these people would leave — our supporters — that would be a problem,” Klopp said. “But as long as they are the way they are, Liverpool Football Club will be fine and that’s the most important thing.”


West Ham’s winless run in EPL finishes. Non-league Maidstone’s FA Cup fairy tale ends

West Ham’s winless run in EPL finishes. Non-league Maidstone’s FA Cup fairy tale ends
Updated 27 February 2024
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West Ham’s winless run in EPL finishes. Non-league Maidstone’s FA Cup fairy tale ends

West Ham’s winless run in EPL finishes. Non-league Maidstone’s FA Cup fairy tale ends

LONDON: Jarrod Bowen scored his first English Premier League hat trick for West Ham as they beat Brentford 4-2 and eased pressure on coach David Moyes on Monday.
The Hammers’ first win in 2024 ended an eight-game winless run in all competitions.
West Ham jumped from 10th to eighth in the league, behind Brighton only on goal difference.
Brentford was 16th, five points above the relegation zone.
Bowen was already West Ham’s top goal-scorer but he hadn’t scored in the league since before Christmas, and he broke that drought in spectacular fashion.
His first goal was a potent left-foot strike that gave the goalkeeper no chance, and the second capped a counter-attack when he side-footed home a cross from Vladimír Coufal.
Neal Maupay got one back soon after for Brentford but Bowden grabbed his and West Ham’s third after 63 minutes when he headed home a cross from Mohammed Kudus.
Full-back Emerson Palmieri made it 4-1 six minutes later with a spectacular long-range shot.
Yoane Wissa got a second for Brentford with eight minutes remaining.

Maidstone’s FA Cup run ends
A first-half hat trick from Coventry’s Ellis Simms helped to end Maidstone’s FA Cup fairy tale 5-0.
Maidstone was the first sixth-tier team to appear in the fifth round since 1978.
But second-tier Coventry was too strong from the off, with Kasey Palmer pulling the strings in midfield.

Maidstone United pose for a team group photo after the match. (Reuters)


His passes helped Simms to his first hat trick for the club. Tavares Desidério got two more in the dying seconds to complete the rout.
The rest of the fifth-round ties will be played on Tuesday and Wednesday.


Babar, Arif star as Peshawar beat Islamabad in last-over PSL thriller

Babar, Arif star as Peshawar beat Islamabad in last-over PSL thriller
Updated 27 February 2024
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Babar, Arif star as Peshawar beat Islamabad in last-over PSL thriller

Babar, Arif star as Peshawar beat Islamabad in last-over PSL thriller
  • Babar Azam scored an unbeaten 111 runs from 63 deliveries to help Peshawar set a 202-run target
  • Arif Yaqoob claimed five wickets for just 27 runs as Peshawar restricted Islamabad to 193 for nine

ISLAMABAD: Babar Azam hit a blistering century and Arif Yaqoob registered a five-wicket haul as Peshawar Zalmi defeated Islamabad United in their exciting match of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 9th edition at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Monday.

Islamabad won the toss and sent Peshawar in to bat. Babar orchestrated a relentless assault on Islamabad and scored an unbeaten 111 runs from 63 deliveries, laying the foundation of his side's win.

Saim Ayub and Paul Walter respectively added 38 and 19 runs to help Peshawar set a 202-run target for Islamabad. In response, Islamabad could reach 193 runs in 20 overs.

"Comeback for the ages," PSL wrote on its official account on X. "Islamabad United lose 6 wickets for just 10 runs as Peshawar Zalmi clinch a last-over thriller."

For Islamabad, Shadab Khan returned 2/28 figures, while Salman Ali Agha and Naseem Shah took one wicket each.

In the second innings, Azam Khan hit 75 runs from 30 balls as Islamabad attempted to chase the mammoth 202-run target.

Colin Munro partnered with Khan and added 71 runs from 53 deliveries, but Islamabad faltered towards the end, losing six wickets in quick succession.

Yaqoob claimed five wickets for just 27 runs, while Ayub and Luke Wood dismissed one each to guide Peshawar to an eight-run win in the last over.

This was Peshawar's third consecutive win in their five matches, while Islamabad have won only one of their four games this season.