Dubai: Ryan Mendes of Cape Verde struck the lone goal to help Sharjah keep their leaders perch with full points against ten-man Al Nasr in a dramatic 15th round encounter of the Arabian Gulf League (AGL), late on Thursday.
Pushing for a goal from the onset, Sharjah could not breach the strong Al Nasr defence despite coming close on several occasions during the fag end of the first half. But the visitors got the opening they were looking for when Al Nasr were reduced to ten men following a straight red card to playmaker Tariq Abdullah with two minutes remaining for half-time.
Sharjah had managed to score in the 38th minute when Igor Coronado placed past goalkeeper Ebrahim Eisa Ali. But the goal was disallowed after consulting the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) for a handball from the talented Saif Rashid who had made the cross.
Despite the early departure of the Al Nasr playmaker, Sharjah continued to fall shy of a goal. Eventually, it was Mendes calming frayed nerves when the 29-year-old from Cape Verde connected a cross from Saif Rashid to hand the visitors full points.
However, the drama didn’t end there as Al Nasr managed to find an equalizer during injury period through striker Ryan Fernandez. But, the VAR once again intervened and the Chilean was found to have been in an off-side position.
Thursday’s win will see Sharjah enjoy their top position with 35 points, while defending champions Al Ain (32 points) will have an opportunity to keep pace with the leaders when they travel to Al Dhafra on Friday. Al Jazira eased into third place with a 5-0 romp over Fujairah in Thursday’s early match, while Shabab Al Ahli Dubai – who host Ajman on Friday night – are in fourth with 28 points. Al Nasr, meanwhile, continued their abysmal season in ninth place with 16 points.