Adnoc Pro League wrap: slick Sharjah, Al Wasl derby delight, and Al Wahda finally off mark

Round 4 of the 2022/23 campaign was headlined by thrilling Bur Dubai derby at Al Maktoum Stadium

Al Wasl, in yellow, won local bragging rights with a 2-1 win over Dubai rivals Al Nasr. Photo: Pro League
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The Adnoc Pro League returned on Saturday following the international break, with a number of high-profile new signings debuting and the Bur Dubai derby. We pick out the highlights from Round 4.

Story of the round

Matchday 4 kicked off on Saturday with slick Sharjah maintaining their 100 per cent start to the season. Cosmin Olaroiu’s side ran out 3-0 winners at home to Khorfakkan, with Caio Lucas opening the scoring with a superb long-range effort, Luan Pereira doubling the lead, and Miralem Pjanic rounding off the result.

In the evening’s other early kick off, struggling Baniyas snatched a much-needed point in front of their own fans, when Sasa Ivkovic’s 94th-minute equaliser sealed a 1-1 draw against Al Jazira. Ali Mabkhout thought he had won it for the 2019/20 champions with a penalty with two minutes to spare. The point was even more impressive for Baniyas: they played 50-plus minutes with 10 men following Gaston Suarez’s straight red card. Jazira dropped points for the first time this season.

In the Match of the Week, Al Wasl earned Bur Dubai bragging rights with an excellent 2-1 win at local rivals Al Nasr. The game had almost everything – goals, goals disallowed, missed penalty and a red card – but the visitors emerged victors thanks to a double from Gabriel De Souza.

His Brazilian compatriot, Gilberto, then saw his spot-kick saved brilliantly by Ahmed Shambieh. Toze pulled one back for Nasr with a sublime free-kick, but it wasn’t enough – despite Wasl being reduced to 10 men when Faris Khalil was sent off with 20 minutes remaining. One bright spot for the hosts, though: marquee new signing Adel Taarabt played 93 minutes on debut.

In Saturday’s other late match, Ajman clinched an impressive 3-1 victory at Dibba Al Fujairah. Isam Faiz and Waleed Azaro got the visitors off the mark by the half-hour, before a quickfire response from Joey Sleegers halved the deficit. Azaro bagged his second not long into the second half, giving Ajman a first win of the campaign. Dibba, with one point from four games, still await theirs.

On Sunday, Shabab Al Ahli slipped to a 3-2 defeat at Al Dhafra, when the hosts burst to a 3-0 lead before the hour mark. Leonardo Jardim’s men fought back through goals from Omar Khribin and Yahya Al Ghassani, but it was too little, too late. Shabab Al Ahli’s indifferent start sustains.

However, there was joy, finally, for Al Wahda, with the Abu Dhabi club claiming a first victory of the season, winning 4-0 at Al Bataeh. Faris Juma opened the scoring midway through the first half, with fellow defender Lucas Pimenta doubling the advantage on 76 minutes. The Brazilian grabbed another in stoppage time, before Sebastian Tagliabue fired home a fourth – his 174th goal in the UAE top flight.

Allan, last week’s signing from Everton, debuted. The win was tempered somewhat immediately afterwards, when manager Carlos Carvalhal was forced to fend questions regarding his reported dismissal. Wahda have yet to comment publicly on the Portuguese’s future.

Rounding off the round, champions Al Ain rebounded from a first defeat of the campaign last time out with a comfortable 3-0 triumph against Ittihad Kalba. Goals at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium from Soufiane Rahimi, Kodjo Laba and Caio Canedo got Serhiy Rebrov’s side back on track.

Al Wasl, in yellow, in action against Al Nasr during the Bur Dubai Derby. Photo: Pro League

Player of the round: Gabriel De Souza (Al Wasl)

A couple of goals settled the big Dubai derby on Saturday, the first a brilliant finish to conclude a fast counter from Wasl, while the second from range caught off guard Nasr goalkeeper Ahmed Shambieh. Could easily share this week’s plaudits, though, with goalkeeper Khaled Al Senani, who was inspired.

Manager of the round: Juan Antonio Pizzi (Al Wasl)

The week’s marquee match was a gripping affair, with Wasl coming out on top thanks in large part to Pizzi’s tactics. The Argentine set up his team to congest the middle of the park, and the opener on the counter showcased a strategy well worked. Major changes at Wasl this summer, including Pizzi himself, but he has began his tenure well.

Goal of the round: Toze (Al Nasr)

Take your pick this week. There was the Caio Lucas curler from 25 yards against Khorfakkan, a similarly sumptuous strike by Ajman’s Waleed Azaro at Dibba, and the almost carbon copy from Dhafra’s Mohammed Rayhi against Shabab Al Ahli. Yet Toze just about merits it, if only because the Portuguese’s beautifully measured, long-range free-kick in the derby clattered the underside of the crossbar on its way in. Perfection.

Updated: October 03, 2022, 7:23 AM