Young guns play key role in Al Jazira's AGL title victory
Al Jazira’s Arabian Gulf League title was incredibly satisfying as it came amid a raging Covid-19 pandemic, Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Al Jazira Club vice president and chairman of Executive Committee, said.
Al Jazira had clinched the title on Tuesday night with a comprehensive 3-1 win over Khorfakkan at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
“This title win is especially significant as it has been a unique season on and off the pitch. Despite playing without fans in our stadium and other Covid related challenges, we managed to play great football with unyielding positivity, passion and teamwork to win a league title that the Al Jazira family has been pursuing since 2016-2017,” said Al Jaber.
“This precious title win is missing a very important ingredient - raising the trophy in front of our fans at the Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium.”
Led by Dutch manager Marcel Keizer, Al Jazira’s trophy-winning campaign is especially remarkable as they had youngest team in the league.
The free-flowing team scored 65 goals, conceding just 29 in 26 matches.
They ended their 2020-2021 campaign with 57 points, three clear of second-placed Bani Yas who were held to a 1-1 draw by Al Wahda.
Needing three points on Tuesday to clinch their third league title, Al Jazira were too strong for Khorfakkan.
Oumar Traoré struck twice and Ali Mabkhout got on the scoresheet too as the Pride of Abu Dhabi claimed the decisive win.
Marcel Keizer’s men started off the stronger of the two sides and breached Khorfakkan’s defence after just two minutes when Milos Kosanovic's header was tipped over the bar by the guests’ keeper. Ali Mabkhout went close four minutes later, but his close-range volley sailed over the target.
Al Jazira’s pressure paid off when they grabbed the lead with just 10 minutes on the clock, as Mabkhout’s defense-splitting pass found Traore who finished into the top right corner.
Mabkhout exchanged the ball with goal-scorer Traore and the latter’s strike was saved by the keeper. The rebound then fell to the league's top-scorer who fired home to double Al Jazira’s lead just before the half-hour mark.
Al Jazira were forced to continue the game with 10 men after Khalfan Mubarak got a red card in the 37th minute.
Making light of their numerical disadvantage, the hosts displayed excellent character and grabbed a third goal on 56 minutes. A fine interception from Thulani Serero saw him feed the ball to Mabkhout on halfway who laced a pass to Traore, as the latter fired home.
Khorfakkan put the pressure on Al Jazira in the final stages of the game, but were denied by keeper Ali Khaseif. They eventually pulled one back in injury time through a brilliant individual effort from Khalfan Al Noobi.
With 25 goals, star striker Ali Mabkhout snatched the golden boot for the being the top scorer of the season. He’s now just four goals away from becoming the all-time top scorer in the league’s history.
“At Al Jazira, we always strive to win every title. It is what the passionate fans deserve. And today, we celebrate the return of the Arabian Gulf League trophy to Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium, the home of victories and titles,” said Al Jaber.
“I am so very proud of all the players, technical staff and everyone associated with the club for their hard work and dedication. I also want to commend Sporting Director Mads Davidsen, head coach Marcel Keizer, team director Hussein Suhail and the rest of the support staff, who built a squad that exemplified our philosophy of developing young talent from our academy.”