Matt Jones analyses the action from the opening weekend of the 2018/19 Arabian Gulf League and gives us his verdict
The Arabian Gulf League is back and with some style too. A total of 31 goals were netted on the opening weekend, with huge wins for Sharjah and Al Wahda, while the game of the weekend was undoubtedly Al Jazira’s 5-4 victory at Shabab Al Ahli Dubai.
Elsewhere, Al Nasr – whose heavy summer recruitment has pegged them as one of the title challengers – were undone by Ajman, while new boys Fujairah and Bani Yas drew 1-1.
Here are our Picks of the Week from the opening weekend:
GOAL: MOHAMED BENYETTOU (FUJAIRAH)
The great Diego Maradona may be gone, but the Wolves are back in the big time and they proved on the opening day that they will not lack bite this season.
Algerian forward Benyettou scored their first goal back at the elite level and what an introduction, picking up a short corner and rifling a rocket of a shot into Fahad Al Dhanhani’s top left corner. Unstoppable.
PLAYER: KHALFAN MUBARAK (AL JAZIRA)
What a joy it is to see the young Emirati at the top of his game. Having claimed the AGL’s Best Young Player as Jazira swept to the title two seasons ago, Mubarak’s form nosedived in 2017/18. Now aged 23, it’s time for him to come into his own.
Perhaps the attacking midfielder was keenly aware of the need to step his game up as he was at his blistering best in a 5-4 thriller his side edged against Shabab Al Ahli.
And even though Ali Mabkhout’s hat-trick will hit headlines, it was his two assists and sublime free-kick winner that really stole the show.
COACH: AYMAN EL RAMADY (AJMAN)
A year ago, the Orange Brigade shone brightly on opening day with a narrow 2-1 defeat against champions Al Jazira – they deserved at least a point.
A year on they got what they deserved and caused a sensational stir by beating title contenders Al Nasr 1-0 – at Maktoum Bin Rashid al Maktoum Stadium. So much for second season syndrome.
TALKING POINT: NO OMAR, NO PROBLEM
Al Ain began life without the talismanic Omar Abdulrahman quietly and without much trouble as Emirates Club were dispatched with minimum fuss in Ras Al Khaimah.
The prodigal son may be gone but the Boss have a more than able replacement in Hussein El Shahat, who scored the first and then supplied assists for Marcus Berg and Caio for the second and third goals.
Speaking of Berg, if he can get anywhere near his 25 goals from a year ago, with El Shahat and Brazilian winger Caio in support, the Garden City side should continue to flourish.