Adnoc Pro League wrap: Mabkhout shines in thriller, De Lima stars and Wahda run riot

Round 5 of the 2022/23 campaign headlined by a see-saw clash between top sides Al Jazira and Sharjah

Ali Mabkhout celebrates his goal for Al Jazuira during the Adnoc Pro League match against Sharjah. Photo: PLC
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The latest matchday in the Adnoc Pro League threw up a thrilling top-of-the-table clash in Abu Dhabi, while Manuel Jimenez’s return to Al Wahda could not have gone any better. We pick out the highlights from Round 5.

Story of the Round

Matchday 5 kicked off on Friday with champions Al Ain running out 2-0 winners at Dibba Al Fujairah. Summer signing Andriy Yarmolenko appears to be finding his feet, the Ukrainian opening the scoring on six minutes. Kodjo Laba, last year’s top scorer, grabbed the second, leaving Dibba still without a win. The poor start to the season then prompted a change of manager: Gregory Dufrennes has replaced Zoran Popovic.

In the day’s other early kick-off, Shabab Al Ahli’s inconsistent start continued, when the Dubai club were held to a goalless draw at home to Ittihad Kalba.

If that match failed to ignite, then Friday evening’s clash between Al Jazira and Sharjah, the division’s lead sides thus far, certainly delivered. By half-time, Jazira were 3-2 up at a buoyant Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium, with Ali Mabkhout bagging two in a see-saw encounter.

For Sharjah, Paco Alcacer and Caio Lucas were on the scoresheet. Caio would have the last laugh, though, coolly slotting home a 70th-minute penalty. With spoils shared at 3-3, Sharjah remain top – despite their first dropped points of the campaign.

Jazira, meanwhile, have been leapfrogged into second by Al Wasl, who cruised past Al Dhafra at Zabeel Stadium. Fabio De Lima was the star: the UAE international notched a hat-trick, including a thunderous free-kick and a sublime chipped finish.

Elsewhere, Ajman made it two wins on the bounce wth a 2-0 victory at home to Baniyas, while Khorfakkan are finally in the win column thanks to a brilliant second-half surge to see off Al Bataeh 3-0 at home.

Matchday 5 was emphatically brought to a close at Al Nahyan Stadium, with Al Wahda blitzing Al Nasr in the second half to emerge 4-0 victors. Manuel Jimenez, who last week replaced in the dugout Carlos Carvalhal, could not have asked for a better return to the club. For Nasr, the defeat cranks up the pressure on under-fire manager Thorsten Fink.

Player of the Round: Ali Mabkhout (Al Jazira)

OK, so Fabio De Lima grabbed a hat-trick, but Mabkhout’s mastery was on full display in the match of the round. The Jazira striker, the league’s all-time record scorer, displayed his enduring talent first with a lovely finish on the volley, and then by racing away from the Sharjah defence and nonchalantly lifting the ball beyond goalkeeper Darwish Mohammed. It was Mabkhout’s ninth goal in five matches, and 190th overall in the UAE top flight.

Manager of the Round: Abdulaziz Al Anbari (Khorfakkan)

At last, victory for Khorfakkan and manager Al Anbari. The hugely popular Emirati, league winner with Sharjah three years ago, has taken time to settle in new surroundings. However, his team delivered on Saturday, casting aside recent form – one point from a possible 12 – to defeat newly promoted Al Bataeh. The hope is Al Anbari, on the surface a shrewd appointment, and his side can kick on from here.

Goal of the Round: Pizzi (Al Wahda)

Mabkhout’s second against Sharjah was superb, but the best was saved until last: Pizzi’s closer in the final game of the weekend. The former Benfica captain exchanged neat interplay with debutant Ahmed Refaat and then drilled home his shot from just inside the penalty area. His first goal in Wahda colours.

Updated: October 10, 2022, 7:50 AM