Domestic Leagues

Greatest Asian Club Derbies: United Arab Emirates

Kuala Lumpur: With football back on track after a tough 2020, we take a look at some of the biggest domestic derbies in club football.

We kick off the series with the United Arab Emirates, a country passionate for its football where several clubs compete season after season for top honours and, understandably, which can bring about bragging rights as well after downing a rival.

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Al Wahda FSCC v Al Ain FC

Dubbed ‘El Classico’ by fans of both sides, the first game on record pairing the two sides ended in a 3-3 draw back in the 1985/1986 season.

Both clubs have met 24 times in the league since it turned professional, with Al Ain winning 13 matches, Al Wahda winning six, and both sides drawing five times.

The fixture has often seen massive scorelines, with one of the matches ending 6-2 in Al Ain’s favour, while another ended 5-1 to their Abu Dhabi rivals.

Al Ain have never lost this fixture at home - a feat stretching across 14 games with nine wins and five draws.

The last meeting between the two sides saw Al Ain take all three points home with a 1-0 home win with Rayan Yaslam scoring the winner in the November 28, 2020 UAE Pro League tie.

Al Wahda FSCC v Al Jazira FC

The Abu Dhabi derby has been the capital city’s derby since both clubs’ inception through a series of mergers during the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Just 4.6km separate Al Wahda’s Al Nahyan stadium and Al Jazira’s Mohamed Bin Zayed stadium, effectively making them neighbours and spicing up a competitive rivalry that has stemmed from the intermittent successes both clubs have enjoyed.

It has often recently been seen as a clash of two generations of elite Emirati strikers - Ismael Matar on the Clarets’ side, and Ali Mabkhout on the Pride of Abu Dhabi’s side.

As these rivalries tend to blow up, six of the past 13 fixtures in the league produced five or more goals, with one of them going 6-0 Al Wahda’s way back in January 2017.

Just 15 days later, Al Jazira avenged themselves with a 5-1 win in a match that saw three players from their rivals sent off in the first half.

The last time both teams met ended in a 2-0 home win for Al Jazira, with Khalfan Mubarak and Mabkhout on the scoresheet in the December 12 UAE Pro League tie.

Al Nasr v Al Wasl

Known as the ‘Bur Dubai Derby’, it’s the match-up between Dubai’s two oldest and most successful clubs. Indeed, Al Nasr is the UAE’s oldest club having come into existence in 1945. On the other hand, rivals Al Wasl were established 15 years later.

Though titles have dried up in recent times for both clubs, the derby has remained as fiery as ever.

There was a time when Argentinian legend Diego Maradona sat in the Leopards’ dugout, while more recently, former Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo leads the line for Al Ameed - the nickname that translates to ‘The Brigadier General’ given to Al Nasr in reference to their longevity.

One of the more memorable games that spring to mind is the 4-2 win Al Nasr enjoyed over their rivals in 2019 - a game which saw Negredo score a hat-trick, redeeming himself after missing a 14th minute penalty just a few minutes after Caio Canedo converted his penalty for the Emperors.

Their most recent meeting ended in a 3-0 away win for Al Nasr, with Sebastian Tagliabue (two) and Dia Saba scoring in the UAE Pro League tie on October 30.

Al Ain v Shabab Al Ahli

In the simplest of terms, this is a fixture between the UAE Pro League’s two most successful sides. The rivalry intensified in the middle of the past decade, when each of the two sides were AFC Champions League finalists in 2016 and 2015 respectively.

With 23 league titles between them, the fixture carries a lot of weight for both sides in terms of pride and bragging rights. In 2015, this derby was carried on to a continental level, when both sides met in the Round of 16 of the AFC Champions league.

The first leg in Dubai ended in a goalless draw, with the closest chance coming when Ismail Al Hammadi’s chipped effort for the home side brushing the crossbar on its way out.

The second leg exploded into life. In Al Ain’s Hazza Bin Zayed stadium, the 90 minutes bore six goals in a tantalising 3-3 draw that saw Al Ahli through on away goals.

Al Ain scored their three goals either side of a five-minute blitz that saw the Dubai side score their three goals to go 3-1 up inside the first hour of play.

‘The Bosses’ eventually clawed their way back to parity on the brink of full-time but that wasn’t enough to secure a quarter-final berth.

Poll ends at 17:00 (UTC+8) on February 4.

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