Abu Dhabi: Eleven-time champions Al Ain kicked off their Arabian Gulf League campaign with a 2-0 home win over Al Wasl on Saturday night, while Al Jazira were held to a 2-2 draw by battling AGL new boys Fujairah.
Earlier in the day, Al Dhafra shared the spoils with Ajman in a 1-1 home draw.
Al Ain’s Ghanaian striker Asamoah Gyan began his bid for a fourth AGL golden boot in a row when he opened the scoring in the 36th minute.
Yet the hosts suffered a setback early in the second half when Mohammad Ahmad was dismissed for a second yellow card.
However, Al Wasl failed to capitalise on their numerical superiority and Al Ain sealed a 2-0 win in the second minute of injury time through summer recruit Miroslav Stoch.
Al Ain’s start to the league season had been delayed by their involvement in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League, in which they went down 3-0 away to Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal in the first leg of the semi-final on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Al Jazira were far from convincing in their second game of the new season in twice letting the lead slip against Fujairah.
A brace from UAE international striker Ali Mabkhout had put The Pride of Abu Dhabi ahead at the Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium, but his efforts were cancelled out by goals from Hassan Yebda and Boubacar Sanogo to enable the visitors to register their first Arabian Gulf League point of the new season.
Al Jazira’s two-goal hero in their 3-2 win at Ajman on Monday, the Argentinian playmaker Manuel Lanzini, was to the fore once again in the early stages of the match.
He had two unsuccessful efforts on goal, including a free-kick which skimmed the top of the goal.
It did not take Al Jazira’s pressure too long to pay off, though, as in the 22th minute they took the lead through Mabkhout’s cool finish after good work from Jonathan Pitroipa and ex-Juventus striker Mirko Vucinic.
However, against the run of play five minutes later, Fujairah stunned the hosts by levelling proceedings thanks to Hassan Yebda, who tapped home a parried effort from Boubacar Sanogo.
In the second half, Al Jazira should have restored their lead, yet Vucinic blazed over from close range after being delightfully set up by Lanzini.
Yet just before the hour mark, Mabkhout won a penalty after a foul in the area from Ibrahim Saeed, and slotted home the spot-kick himself with cool aplomb.
Eric Gerets’ men could have moved even further ahead had Vucinic’s snap-shot not been ruled out for offside and the hosts were made to pay for their profligacy in the 88th minute when Sanogo netted after goalkeeper Ali Khaseif failed to deal with Algerian defender Madjd Bougherra’s cross.
In the day’s late afternoon match, a sumptuous strike from Makhete Diop had put the hosts Al Dhafra ahead, only for Boris Kabi’s penalty to earn Ajman’s first point of the 2014/15 campaign.