Dubai: Al Jazira blew an opportunity of overtaking leaders and defending champions Sharjah even as the chasing pack of four continued to gain vital ground at the end of the 17th round of the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) over the weekend.
Needing full points, Al Jazira played out an entertaining 3-3 draw with neighbours Bani Yas after Sharjah had toiled for a 1-1 away draw against Al Dhafra - leaving the Pride of Abu Dhabi and the defending champions tied at the top with 37 points each. Bani Yas continued in third with 33 points.
Lower down, it was business as usual as chasing Al Ain, Al Nasr and Shabab Al Ahli Dubai all registered wins to come within striking range of the top three. Al Ain maintained their fourth place with a 3-1 win at home against Fujairah, Al Nasr shrugged off last week’s loss to neighbours Al Wasl with a 3-0 away win in Ajman while Shabab Al Ahli Dubai were made to wait for the fag end of the match to overcome cellar-placed Hatta 2-1.
Their comfortable wins at home left Al Ain and Al Nasr with an identical 30 points in fourth and fifth places, respectively, while Shabab Al Ahli Dubai remained in sixth with 29 points. Al Wahda displaced Al Wasl in seventh position following a comfortable 3-0 win against Khor Fakkan, while it was Kalba denying the Cheetahs vital points following an exciting 4-4 draw.
Much of the attention was on the defending champions Sharjah as they continued cracking up in the second leg of the league. ‘The King’ had lost to Al Ain last week, and this week they squandered many a chance to finally settle for a 1-1 result against Al Dhafra.
Sharjah were the better side for large periods of the first half, but just couldn’t pose find a way through the home team defence. They finally got a goal in the 32nd minute when Welliton Soares latched on to a rebound and fired home. Sharjah’s lead was shortlived as Pedro Conde netted the equaliser three minutes before the break after converting from the penalty spot.
Sharjah goalkeeper Adel Al Hosani pulled off a fine save to deny Makhete Diop just before the break. In the second half, the home team was under severe pressure and had it not been for an alert, Khalid Al Senani Al Dhafra would have been in arrears into the first 20 minutes of the second session.
Imoh Ezekiel’s late goal rescued a point for Al Jazira following their thrilling 3-3 draw with Bani Yas. The hosts took the lead in the ninth minute when Brandley Kuwas’ left-footed effort nestled into the back of the Bani Yas net. Five minutes later, Ali Mabkhout got his name on the scorelist to make it 2-0.
Joao Pedro pulled one back for Bani Yas four minutes before the break and then Nicolas Gimenez netted two quick-fire goals in the 48th and 50th minutes to hand his side the lead. However, substitute Ezekiel netted the equaliser in the fourth minute of injury time as the two teams split points.
Shabab Al Ahli Dubai once again displayed quality as the Red Knights came from behind with two late goals to edge Hatta 2-1. After a goalless first half, it was Hatta’s Swedish midfielder Nahir Besara opening the scoring with a glorious long-range screamer in the 58th minute.
After that, Hatta were reduced to 10 men after Habib Yousuf was sent off in the 84th minute and Shabab Al Ahli Dubai capitalised on their numerical advantage with two quick goals. Yahya Al Ghassani got the equaliser in the 86th minute before Mohammad Juma got the match-winner a minute later.
Ajman 0 Al Nasr 3; Al Dhafra 1 Sharjah 1; Al Jazira 3 Bani Yas 3; Hatta 1 Shabab Al Ahli Dubai 2; Al Wahda 3 Khor Fakkan 0; Al Wasl 4 Kalba 4; Al Ain 3 Fujairah 1.