Going into the final round of matches in the Manasir Jordan Pro League, there seemed little doubt that holders Al Wahdat were on course to claim a fourth consecutive crown, particularly after a 1-0 away win over closest rivals Al Faysali in 12 April’s crunch clash. Indeed, the Al Wahdat faithful crammed into the King Abdullah II stadium to celebrate their expected title success hours before their side’s final game away to Shabab Al Ordon.
Crucially, the players also appeared to believe the championship was a foregone conclusion, with slack defending allowing Shabab Al Ordon to race into a two-goal lead. Despite creating a multitude of chances, the visitors were only able to pull back a solitary goal, the shock defeat handing the initiative to Al Faysali – two points behind but with a home encounter against Al Ramtha still to play.
Roared on by their fans, Al Faysali held their nerve to secure a 2-1 success and reclaim the title for the first time since 2004. The relief was palpable, all the more so given that the club had appeared to throw away their chances after leading comfortably for most of the campaign. A run of shaky form had coincided with an Al Wahdat winning streak, culminating in the latter’s victory in the aforementioned table-topping encounter, which put the Greens in pole position.
However, just like last season, when their victory over Al Faysali helped smooth Al Wahdat’s path to the trophy, third-placed Shabab Al Ordon proved decisive in the final reckoning. And given Shabab’s poor recent record against Al Wahdat, allied to the four points they took off Al Faysali during the course of the campaign, the latter could have been forgiven for being less than optimistic. Yet they defied expectations with a fine win which ensured Al Faysali topped the table with 53 points, one clear of Al Wahdat, with Shabab eight points further back.
There were twists and turns aplenty at the wrong end of the table too, with a widespread lack of resources dragging nearly half the top flight into a relegation battle. The tension ratcheted up several notches in the final weeks of the season, with Al Arabi, having at one stage looked doomed, grabbing several vital wins to lift themselves out of the drop zone. They ended the campaign three points clear of danger, with Al Karmel and Al Ittihad both dropping into the second tier.
Nor was there a shortage of drama on the coaching front in a season that oversaw a vast number of changes at the helm. Perhaps the biggest of these was Thaer Jassam’s defection from Al Faysali to Al Wahdat after his side’s defeat by the latter in the first half of the campaign, though his former charges would end up having the last laugh.
Al Faysali, who replaced Jassam with Math’har Al Saeed, ended up lifting the title under former player Mohmaed Al Aymani after Al Saeed resigned in the wake of April’s home reverse against Al Wahdat. This kind of upheaval was typical of a season when 11 teams went through a total of 39 head coaches and Al Hussein’s Osama Qassim was the only man to stay in his post from start to finish.
Finally, turning back to Al Faysali, the club now have the chance to add even greater lustre to their 31st league title. Winners of the pre-season Jordan FA Shield, they can complete an impressive treble with victory in the Jordan FA Cup, set to resume in the first week of May.