Dubai: Al Ain left it late to defeat arch rivals Al Wahda 1-0 at Al Nahyan Stadium thanks to Kodjo Laba’s 82nd-minute strike to increase their lead at the top of the ADNOC Pro League to seven points.
The visitors started on the front foot and within three minutes they had their first big chance of the game as Laba supplied a through ball for the overlapping Soufiane Rahimi on the left wing as the Moroccan tried to beat the goalkeeper from a narrow angle, but hit the side netting instead.
Omar Khrbin tested goalkeeper Khaled Eisa with an effort from 30 yards out but the Al Ain goalkeeper was alert to the danger and tipped over the crossbar.
Eisa was again on his toes, punching a deflected Ala Zheir header off his line before Joao Pedro’s overhead attempt on the follow up narrowly missed the target.
One minute later, Khrbin found himself with only the goalkeeper to beat following a fine through pass from Fabio Martins, but the Syrian international could not find the target from inside the box, scuffing his effort.
Five minutes after the restart, Cristian Guanca setup the overlapping Erik Jorgens and the full back fired a powerful effort that was heroically blocked by Zhir who threw his body on the way.
Laba finally broke the deadlock eight minutes from time when he dispossessed youngster Abdulrahman Saleh deep into Al Wahda’s half, before outmuscling Zhir on the left side of the penalty box and curling a stunning right-footed effort into the top corner of the net to win it for his side.
Both sides retain their places in the table, with Al Ain’s lead at the summit growing to seven points as they reach point number 46 and Al Wahda’s advantage over Sharjah eroding to three points as they freeze at 39.