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

  • 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.


Laporte takes aim at critics after strong Spain Euros start

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Laporte takes aim at critics after strong Spain Euros start

“They said everything, there was a lot of speculation and not enough information to come out with so many opinions,” Laporte told a news conference
“There’s a lot of bad information out there that generates more headlines... I prepared myself (to play at the Euros)“

DONAUESCHINGEN, Germany: Spain defender Aymeric Laporte fired a shot at his critics on Saturday after his fine display against Italy at Euro 2024.
The 30-year-old center-back, now playing for Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia, started as Spain defeated the reigning champions 1-0 on Thursday to qualify for the last 16 top from Group B.
Laporte missed the opening 3-0 win against Croatia with a muscular problem and some Spanish media speculated over whether he was at the right level to play for La Roja after a year in the Saudi league.
“They said everything, there was a lot of speculation and not enough information to come out with so many opinions,” Laporte told a news conference ahead of the third group match against Albania on Monday.
“There’s a lot of bad information out there that generates more headlines... I prepared myself (to play at the Euros).”
Laporte arrived in Germany after his team-mates, and coach Luis de la Fuente said although the former Manchester City player could have featured against Croatia, it was better not to take risks.
“I played 90 minutes against Italy and I feel good,” added Laporte.
“I spoke with the (Spain) coach before taking the decision to go to Saudi Arabia.
“For me the national team is very important, it’s one of the most important things in my career.
“I’m proud of representing Spain, each time I wear the shirt I feel very proud and like I identify.”
Laporte, born in the French Basque region, became a naturalized Spaniard in 2021.
The defender played alongside Robin Le Normand, another French-born player, against Italy.
“I speak (to him) a lot on the pitch, we have fluid communication,” said Laporte.
“On and off the pitch we’re constantly talking, we played well against Italy.”
In January Laporte said many new players in the Saudi league coming from Europe were not happy, but defended the competition on Friday.
“I think people are prejudiced about it,” he explained.
“It’s also true that it’s a young league, in terms of marketing it’s evolving bit by bit and maybe in the future it will be seen as a more competitive league.
“But I also have to say that the player of the match in both of France’s games was (Al-Ittihad player N’Golo) Kante, and that shows something.”

UAE jiu-jitsu national team passes weigh-in for Grand Prix Thailand Open 2024 

Updated 22 June 2024
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UAE jiu-jitsu national team passes weigh-in for Grand Prix Thailand Open 2024 

  • 19 Emirati male and female fighters are among more than 300 athletes from 31 nations taking part in the tournament

ABU DHABI: The UAE jiu-jitsu national team completed the official weigh-in on Friday night for the Grand Prix Thailand Open 2024, which run until May 23 in Bangkok.

The Emirati fighters are aiming to build on their strong performance from May in Abu Dhabi, where they won the Jiu-Jitsu Asian Championship title for the fourth consecutive year.

This championship is crucial for the team, which consists of 19 male and female athletes as it provides an opportunity to test their skills before big events, particularly the Jiu-Jitsu World Championship in Greece this October and Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Thailand in November. More than 300 athletes from 31 nations are participating in the Grand Prix Thailand Open 2024.

Mohamed Salem Al-Dhaheri, vice chairman of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation, expressed confidence in the athletes’ skills and their readiness to compete at the highest level.

“The successful weigh-in reflects the exceptional efforts during training camps and the athletes’ professionalism and commitment to following the technical staff’s directives. The team is all prepared to compete strongly against some of the best athletes in the world,” he said.

“The team aims to maintain their excellence in continental and international competitions and build on their successes in 2024, starting with the recent Jiu-Jitsu Asian Championship win.”

Al-Dhaheri highlighted the importance of grand prix tournaments in improving the team’s standing in the Jiu-Jitsu International Federation’s ranking. This ranking provides advantages in terms of the draw and brackets for the Jiu-Jitsu World Championship. 

Sultan Hassan, of the national team, competing in the 69 kg weight category, said: “We aim to represent the nation well and add another title to our country’s record of achievements. We have prepared intensively over the past weeks and are eager to continue performing well on the international stage.

“We worked hard with the technical staff and underwent an intensive training program, both physically and mentally. Our training included advanced techniques and various strategies, enhancing our preparation to compete at the highest level. We are confident that we can perform well and fly the UAE’s flag high.”

The men’s team delegation includes Rashid Al-Shehhi, Omar Al-Suwaidi and Mohammed Al-Ketbi who will compete in the 56 kg weight division; Mayed Al-Shehhi and Khaled Al-Baloushi in the 62 kg weight division; Muhammad Al-Suwaidi and Sultan Hassan in the 69 kg weight division; Mahdi Al-Awlaki and Sultan Al-Hosani in the 77 kg weight division; Saeed Al-Kubaisi in the 85 kg weight division; and Hazza Farhan in the 94 kg weight division.

In the women’s category, Balqees Alhashmi and Aysha Al-Shamsi will compete in the 45 kg weight division; Maitha Shraim in the 48 kg weight division; Asma Al-Hosani in the 52 kg weight class; Alanood Alhosani in the 57 kg weight class; Shamma Al-Kalbani and Bashayer Al-Matroushi in the 63 kg weight division; and Muhrah Mahfoudh in the 70 kg weight division.


DP World ILT20 franchises retain leading cricket stars for Season 3

Updated 22 June 2024
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DP World ILT20 franchises retain leading cricket stars for Season 3

  • Franchises had option of retaining maximum of two UAE players, with no limit on retention of international players.
  • DP World ILT20 Season 3 to begin from Saturday, Jan. 11, 2025, with final to be played on Sunday, Feb. 9

DUBAI: The six DP World International League T20 franchises have retained a total of 69 players for the tournament’s third season, which will be played from Jan. 11 to Feb. 9, 2025 in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.

The window for retaining players was opened on June 1 with the teams given two weeks to submit the list of the retained players.

Among the 69 players, 26 players were parts of various ICC men’s T20 World Cup 2024 squads.

The retained players include T20 heavyweights such as Andre Russell, David Willey, Sunil Narine (Abu Dhabi Knight Riders), Alex Hales, Azam Khan, Muhammad Amir, Sherfane Rutherford, Wanindu Hasaranga (Desert Vipers), Dasun Shanaka, David Warner, Rovman Powell, Sam Billings, Sikandar Raza (Dubai Capitals), Chris Jordan, James Vince, Shimron Hetmyer (Gulf Giants), Akeal Hosein, Dwayne Bravo, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Kieron Pollard, Nicholas Pooran, (MI Emirates), Johnson Charles and Tom Kohler-Cadmore (Sharjah Warriors).

Each of the six franchises have retained two UAE players each.

The UAE players retained for Season 3 include Aditya Shetty and Alishan Sharafu (Abu Dhabi Knight Riders), Ali Naseer and Tanish Suri (Desert Vipers), Haider Ali and Raja Akif (Dubai Capitals), Aayan Afzal Khan and Mohammad Zohaib Zubair (Gulf Giants), Muhammad Rohid Khan and Muhammad Waseem (MI Emirates), Junaid Siddique and Muhammad Jawadullah (Sharjah Warriors).

Following the completion of the players' retention window, the teams can now sign new players in the player acquisition window, which will stay open till Sept. 15.

Each franchise can sign a minimum two additional UAE players to complete their quota of four UAE signings after the completion of the ILT20 development tournament, which will be held in October.

 
Retained players for DP World ILT20 Season 3:

Abu Dhabi Knight Riders: Aditya Shetty, Ali Khan, Alishan Sharafu, Andre Russell, Andries Ghous, Charith Asalanka, David Willey, Joe Clarke, Laurie Evans, Michael Pepper and Sunil Narine.

Desert Vipers: Adam Hose, Alex Hales, Ali Naseer, Azam Khan, Bas de Leede, Luke Wood, Michael Jones, Muhammad Amir, Nathan Sowter, Sherfane Rutherford, Tanish Suri and Wanindu Hasaranga.

Dubai Capitals: Dasun Shanaka, David Warner, Dushmantha Chameera, Haider Ali, Raja Akif, Rovman Powell, Sam Billings, Sikandar Raza, Zahir Khan, Jake Fraser McGurk and Oliver Stone.

Gulf Giants: Aayan Afzal Khan, Blessing Muzarabani, Chris Jordan, Dipendra Singh Airee, Gerhard Erasmus, Jamie Overton, James Vince, Jamie Smith, Jordan Cox, Mohammad Zohaib Zubair, Rehan Ahmed, Richard Gleeson and Shimron Hetmyer.

MI Emirates: Akeal Hosein, Andre Fletcher, Daniel Mousley, Dwayne Bravo, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Jordan Thompson, Kieron Pollard, Kusal Perera, Muhammad Rohid Khan, Muhammad Waseem, Nicholas Pooran, Nosthush Kenjige, Vijayakanth Viyaskanth and Waqar Salamkheil.

Sharjah Warriors: Dilshan Madushanka, Johnson Charles, Junaid Siddique, Muhamad Jawadullah, Kusal Mendis, Luke Wells, Peter Hatzoglou and Tom Kohler-Cadmore.


Impa Kasanganay earns top seed after victory in PFL light heavyweight playoffs

Updated 22 June 2024
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Impa Kasanganay earns top seed after victory in PFL light heavyweight playoffs

  • Kasanganay will face Josh Silveira in the 2024 PFL light heavyweight semifinals
  • The 2024 PFL Global Season action continues Friday, June 28 from Sioux Falls, South Dakota

SALT LAKE CITY: Impa Kasanganay emerged victorious on Friday night as the 2024 PFL Global Season resumed from the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The 12-fight Professional Fighters League event card featured the lightweight and light heavyweight divisions.

The evening’s co-main event featured 2023 PFL light heavyweight champion Kasanganay squaring off with Jakob Nedoh. The two battled back and forth until Kasanganay landed a flurry of devastating punches leading to a doctor’s stoppage after the second round. Kasanganay continues his million-dollar journey with a berth in the 2024 PFL Global Season playoffs.

In the night’s other main event, Clay Collard and Mads Burnell went the three-round distance. Burnell took control of the action with a superior ground game, nullifying Collard’s striking advantage. Burnell earned a unanimous decision, playing the spoiler in Collard’s hometown return.

Former lightweight champion Patricky Pitbull faced Bruno Miranda in a lightweight global season bout with Miranda defeating Pitbull by split decision. Unfortunately for both fighters, Miranda and Pitbull were eliminated from the PFL playoffs due to points.

The 2022 PFL light heavyweight champion Rob Wilkinson met 2023 runner-up Josh Silveira in Global Season action. The two battled for three rounds, showcasing their technical acumen. In the end, it was Wilkinson taking the razor-thin, split-decision victory. Both competitors clinched 2024 PFL playoffs berths.

Turkmenistan’s Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov squared off with Cameroon’s Simon Biyong in a light heavyweight PFL Global Season matchup. After three intense rounds, Yagshimuradov was judged as the superior fighter, winning by unanimous decision. As a result, Yagshimuradov clinched a spot in the 2024 PFL playoffs.

“The Professional Fighters League’s debut in Salt Lake City was an unforgettable event featuring the best athletes in MMA as they continued their million-dollar journey,” said PFL CEO Peter Murray. “The PFL season format makes every fight a must-win, giving us an unparalleled connection to the fans while providing unrivaled action with the highest stakes in the sport.”

“Salt Lake City saw eight athletes qualify for the 2024 PFL Global Season playoffs in a night of non-stop PFL action,” said Ray Sefo, president of fighter operations at PFL. “We look forward to next week’s 2024 PFL regular season finale in Sioux Falls.”

Antonio Carlos Jr. and Alex Polizzi met in Global Season light heavyweight action. Polizzi earned a hard-fought unanimous decision. The decision ended both fighters’ hopes of moving on to the 2024 PFL playoffs.

Brent Primus defeated Solomon Renfro by submission in the third round in a lightweight PFL Global Season matchup. Primus clinched a 2024 PFL playoff berth with the victory.

Sadibou Sy faced off against Andrew Sanchez in a light heavyweight Global Season bout. In an action-packed fight, both men traded strikes until Sy ended the affair in the third round by TKO.

In a lightweight Global Season matchup, it was win-or-go-home time for Gadzhi Rabadanov and Elvin Espinoza. The fight went the distance, with both fighters trading shots for three rounds. In the end it was Rabadanov who left the PFL smartcage victorious after a unanimous decision, earning a spot in the 2024 PFL playoffs.

In lightweight PFL Global Season action, Adam Piccolotti defeated Michael Dufort by split decision in a hard-fought matchup. The victory was not enough to put Piccolotti into the postseason, Dufort however, did eventually earn his first trip to the PFL playoffs.

In an exciting PFL Global Season lightweight alternate bout, Sergio Cossio defeated Anthony Romero by unanimous decision in his PFL debut. The win extends former lightweight champion Cossio’s winning streak to nine.

The first fight of the night, a featherweight showcase bout between undefeated fighters Brahyan Zurcher and Julian Ruiz, resulted in a second-round KO by Zurcher. Zurcher improves to 9-0 as a pro with seven stoppage wins.

The 2024 PFL Global Season continues on Friday, June 28 from Sioux Falls, South Dakota with featherweight and welterweight action.


Ancer leads with 64, DeChambeau 3 back, Fireballs lead team race at LIV Golf Nashville

Updated 22 June 2024
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Ancer leads with 64, DeChambeau 3 back, Fireballs lead team race at LIV Golf Nashville

  • With Ancer leading the way, Fireballs GC lead the team competition by four shots over DeChambeau’s Crushers GC, with Torque GC another shot back in third
  • The crowd support helped keep DeChambeau going, and he acknowledged them at every opportunity — including at the par-3 15th party hole when he made birdie, then cupped his ear to hear the fans cheer

COLLEGE GROVE: In his first round since winning the US Open, a worn-out Bryson DeChambeau continued to thrive off the energy of his growing fan base, shooting a 4-under 67 on Friday at LIV Golf Nashville.

Meanwhile, a rejuvenated Abraham Ancer continued to ride the form that’s already led to one LIV Golf victory this season, as he grabbed the first-round lead at The Grove with a bogey-free 7-under 64.
 

With Ancer leading the way, Fireballs GC lead the team competition by four shots over DeChambeau’s Crushers GC, with Torque GC another shot back in third. The Fireballs, captained by Sergio Garcia, are seeking their first team title this season after trying for second in each of the previous two tournaments.
 
Ancer opened his round with a birdie, and then took the lead on his final nine with four birdies in a five-hole stretch. He finished by getting up-and-down on his last hole to keep his scorecard clean.
 

“Extremely happy the way I fought today,” said Ancer, the winner at LIV Golf Hong Kong earlier this year in a playoff. “Even the last hole, I put myself in a tough spot and then made a longish putt for par, which was really nice. You don’t want to finish on a bogey.”

One shot back is Legion XIII’s Tyrrell Hatton, the only player this season to finish inside the top 24 in points in each of the first eight tournaments. Hatton leaned heavily on his putter during a round in which he needed just 24 putts. 

“The big thing that I was most pleased with today was just the putter,” Hatton said. “Feel like I holed out really well from inside 10 feet.”

In solo third is John Catlin, a reserve player who is filling in for injured Crushers veteran Charles Howell III for the second consecutive LIV Golf tournament. Catlin’s 5-under 66 was highlighted by a stretch of four birdies in five holes around his turn.

No reserve player has finished inside the top 5 of a LIV Golf tournament, but Catlin, a 13-time winner in his professional career and currently second in the International Series standings, is confident he can continue to make noise this week.

“I feel like if I can go out and play my game, I’m capable of anything,” he said.

DeChambeau is in a four-way tie for fourth with Torque’s Sebastián Muñoz, Fireballs’ Eugenio Chacarra and Majesticks GC’s Sam Horsfield.
 
The last few days have been a whirlwind for the Crushers captain after winning his second US Open with a clutch up-and-down on the 72nd hole at Pinehurst. A media tour in New York followed the next day before he traveled to Nashville for this week’s tournament.
 
“I’m a zombie right now. I’m a dead man walking,” he said.
 
But the crowd support Friday helped keep him going, and he acknowledged them at every opportunity — including at the par-3 15th party hole when he made birdie, then cupped his ear to hear the fans cheer.
 
“It’s quite an honor to be out here and have so much support,” DeChambeau said. “It’s fantastic. This is what LIV is all about.”

Team counting scores

Standings and counting scores for Friday’s opening round of the team competition at LIV Golf Nashville:

 

1. FIREBALLS GC -14 (Ancer 64, Chacarra 67, Garcia 68)

 

2. CRUSHERS GC -10 (Catlin 66, DeChambeau 67, Casey 70)

 

3. TORQUE GC -9 (Muñoz 67, Ortiz 68, Pereira 69)

 

4. LEGION XIII -8 (Hatton 65, Rahm 70, Surratt 70)

 

5. MAJESTICKS GC -7 (Horsfield 67, Westwood 69, Stenson 70)

 

T6. STINGER GC -4 (Schwartzel 69, Burmester 70, Oosthuizen 70)

 

T6. RIPPER GC -4 (Leishman 69, Smith 69, Jones 71)

 

T6. CLEEKS GC -4 (Kaymer 68, Bland 70, Samooja 71)

 

9. IRON HEADS GC -3 (Na 69, Vincent 69, Kozuma 72)

 

10. SMASH GC -2 (Koepka 69, Kokrak 71, Gooch 71)

 

11. HYFLYERS GC E (Mickelson 70, Steele 71, Ogletree 72)

 

12. RANGEGOATS GC +1 (Watson 70, Wolff 72, Uihlein 72)

 

13. 4ACES GC +2 (Varner III 71, Reed 72, Perez 72)