Abu Dhabi: The Arabian Gulf League is heading for an exciting finish with league leaders Sharjah stuttering at the business-end of the tournament. Sharjah, who looked like running away with the title at one point, suffered a shock 3-2 defeat at the hands of Al Wasl in match week 24 on Saturday night.
Fabio De Lima stole the match-winner in the injury time and also completed a double for the night after opening the account in the 39th minute. Ali Saleh also contributed with a goal for the winners in the 73rd minute. For Sharjah, Ali Al Dhanhani and Igor Coronado scored a goal apiece in the second half.
This was Sharjah’s first defeat of the season and though the ‘Kings’ continue to top the table on 53 points, there will be plenty of butterflies in their stomach when then meet a resurgent Al Wahda in the penultimate round on Wednesday.
The result would have boosted the confidence of their closest rival Shabab Al Ahli as they now trail with just three points. Al Wasl have moved to seventh spot with 33 points.
Sharjah coach Abdul Aziz Al Anbari will be under tremendous pressure to rally his side quickly and get their campaign back on track. “We have to forget this game and the result. I congratulate Al Wasl for this level and win,” said Al Anbari, who is well aware that Al Wahda would come hard against them, given the fact that they are engaged in a three-way third place battle with Al Jazira and Al Ain.
“The last-minute matches are always difficult but I am proud of all the players and I have great confidence that they are capable of achieving the goal.
“Since the beginning of the league, the players have responded well when the chips are down and that gives us a lot of optimism,” added Al Anbari.
“We have a difficult encounter (Al Wahda) and the preparation period is short. We have to be very focused on the game because we need points, we know we have to register a win.”
Meanwhile, the third place battle has also intensified after Al Ain defeated Dibba 2-0 and Al Wahda defeated Ajman 3-1. Al Ain and Al Wahda are now tied on 43 points, in fourth and fifth place, respectively. Al Jazira are one point ahead on third spot.
Ajman, meanwhile, are eighth on 31 points while Dibba are staring at relegation as they remain at the bottom of the standings with 13 points.