Abu Dhabi: The Etisalat Pro-League witnessed a night of the underdogs on Thursday as bottom two teams Dibba and Kalba beat powerhouses Al Ain and Al Nasr 1-0 and 2-1 respectively.
Other results saw Al Jazira and Al Shabab avenge defeats from earlier in the season by overcoming Al Dhafra 4-1 and Al Ahli 2-0.
Dibba achieved the biggest of the upsets by beating defending champions and league leaders Al Ain with a single goal scored by Luiz Fernando in the 33rd minute, when he snatched the ball from defender Esmail Ahmad and shot under the advancing keeper.
The result was beyond the wildest dreams of even the most optimistic of Dibba fans, as the match started with them 33 points behind Al Ain. Dibba, bottom of the league with seven points at kick-off, are playing in the UAE’s top division for the first time and had never previously lost by fewer than five goals to the Garden City club, never mind drawn with or beaten them.
Dr Abdulla Misfir, the head coach of Dibba, used a strict defensive strategy depending on counter-attacks to score and his goalkeeper Mohammad Salem was in a class of his own, saving many dangerous attempts, while the bar and post also denied Asamoah Gyan.
“We applied a defensive plan because we know the strength of Al Ain, the best team in the competition, and our own capabilities.” Misfir said after the match. “The plan, though it might show us as inferior to our opponents, succeeded and we won the points.
“The victory will boost the morale of our players and increase their confidence in their own capabilities and will help them in the remaining matches in our quest to stay with the top teams.”
In Kalba, the city team, who are second from bottom, beat sixth-placed Al Nasr 2-1 and even squandered a penalty kick. Young Al Nasr keeper Ahmad Shambaih saved Abdulla Al Jamahi’s spot-kick in the 28th minute, but the home team, playing without their three foreign professionals, continued to attack and their efforts were rewarded just before half-time, when Junior scored with a fierce long-range shot.
Giuseppe Mascara levelled from the spot in the 53rd minute, but Mohammad Malalla scored the winner for Kalba in the 87th minute.
In Abu Dhabi, Al Jazira closed the gap to leaders Al Ain to six points by trouncing Al Dhafra 4-1, with Fernandinho, Ricardo Oliveira, Anas Bin Yaseen (own goal) and Ali Mabkhoot on target. Makhete Diop scored for the losers.
In Dubai, Al Shabab won the Deira derby by beating neighbours Al Ahli 2-0, with Brazilians Ciel and Edgar scoring the goals.
Thursday’s Pro-League matches
Kalba 2 Al Nasr 1
Al Ain 0 Dibba Al Fujairah 1
Al Jazira 4 Al Dhafra 1
Al Shabab 2 Al Ahli 0