Dubai: Al Ain rode on a refereeing favour and a brace from Ghanaian skipper Asamoah Gyan to secure a hard fought 3-2 win over Al Shabab and assume temporary leadership in the seventh round of the Etisalat Pro League here late on Thursday.
Pegged down by the resilience of the home defence, the much-touted Al Ain strike-force struggled to make their way through for a goal. And finally, when they did manage to open the scoring it was due to the erring favour of referee Abdul Wahid Qhater who instantaneously pointed to the penalty spot after Gyan so easily collapsed to the ground just two minutes away from half-time.
But Gyan did himself some justice four minutes after the hour when he evaded his marker to prod home his second of the match after Ciel had restored parity in the 54th minute.
And then yet again the referee came the rescue of the defending champions when he disallowed a foul inside the Al Shabab area to allow Esmail Ahmad to scramble a third goal for the visitors before Ciel got his second from the spot well into injury period to make it 3-2.
The result meant Al Ain climb to the top of the standings with 16 points, one better than Al Wahda who had occupied the spot for a couple of hours following their 2-0 win over Dibba Al Fujairah.
If Al Ain had any intentions of an easing outing for full points they were surprised with the tenacity of the home side along with the failure of their star striker Gyan in finding the goal for them.
Gyan was well placed at the edge of the area in the tenth minute, but the Ghanaian miscued his shot. Then on the 13th minute goalkeeper Esmail Rabea flung himself to thwart him again. Gyan was unlucky a third time a minute after the half hour mark when he paced himself to slam an Alex Brosque pass only to find the cross bar intervening.
As the game laboured on, Al Ain got their reward in the 43rd minute when the referee wasted no time in pointing to the penalty spot after Gyan went down inside the box as Walid Abbas came in for a challenge. The Ghanaian converted by sending Rabea in the other direction.
Jociel Ferreira da Silva (Ciel) should have got the equalizer during first half injury period after being fed by Luiz da Silva Alves, but the Brazilian only found the waiting hands of goalkeeper Dawood Sulaiman.
Al Shabab finally got the equalizer in the 54th minute when Alves evaded the off-side trap and relayed for Ciel to poach in at the near corner.
Al Ain slowly started controlling the midfield and that gave the visitors a good chance of organizing themselves and moving towards goal. In the 64th minute, Gyan got his second of the match when he evaded his marker and prodded home to make it 2-1.
And then in the 76th minute Al Ain relied on the magnitude of the referee as the official failed to catch a foul by Esmail Ahmad on an Al Shabab defender before scampering a third goal.
Al Shabab scored a second two minutes into injury time when Ciel collapsed inside the area and referee awarded a penalty that the Brazilian himself converted.