Dubai: Bani Yas lost the chance to go top of the Arabian Gulf League leaderboard after being held to a goalless draw by fifth-placed Shabab Al Ahli in an engrossing home match on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi.
Al Jazira retained their grip at the top, but also missed out on the opportunity to pull clear after being held 3-3 at relegation battlers Ajman. Jazira lead by just one point, with two rounds of the league left to be played.
At Bani Yas, the hosts were the stronger of the two units and camped in the Shabab half from the outset. In fact Bani Yas could have gone ahead from a corner, but Gaston Suarez could only watch as his side-footed effort was blocked by Shabab goalkeeper Hassan Hamza Ali on his goal-line. It was Bani Yas’ best chance of the first half, but there were more.
Chief among which was Sultan Al Shamsi’s attempt to beat Ali from 30 yards out with an effort that merely sailed over the Shabab Al Ahli crossbar minutes before half-time. That too wasn’t the last notable piece of action to show for the first period, with Shabab Al Ahli also coming close. However, Harib Abdalla Suhail’s flawed decision to roll a pass across the face of goal instead of going for glory denied them the privilege of the lead. Suhail attempting on his own would have been the better option as his pass was comfortably intercepted by Bani Yas goalkeeper Fahad Al Dhanhani.
Shabab Al Ahli ran out stronger for the second half and Yuri Cesar should have done better than shoot wide from eight yards out with just goalkeeper Al Dhanhani to beat after deftly threading his way into the box on the left.
Ten minutes later, in the 74th, the Brazilian was guilty of sending yet another shot from a promising position wide after being presented with an opportunity at the top of the box.
Elsewhere in the late matches, a goal fest unfolded at Ajman where Al Jazira lost the opportunity to go four points clear of Bani Yas. The match finished 3-3 with Ali Mabkhout’s 77th-minute penalty saving the visitors the blushes. Imoh Ezekiel put Al Jazira ahead on nine minutes, but Modibo Maiga levelled on 26, with the Abu Dhabi side taking the lead for a second time through Brandley Kuwas, only to be pegged back by Maigo’s second of the night. Luiz Antonio’s 64th minute penalty strike took Ajman ahead for the first time, but another at the other end saw Mabkhout score to help Jazira leave with a share of the spoils.
Jazira top the leaderboard with 51 points, one more than Bani Yas, while Sharjah are in third, a further five behind after last night following their 3-0 dismantling of rock-bottom Hatta at home. Second half goals from Salem Saleh, Khalid Bawazir and Juninho ensured Sharjah won.
With just two rounds of competition left, Hatta, with just nine points so far, are virtually doomed to be relegated, while Ajman’s draw with Jazira helped them climb out of the two-team relegation zone. With 15 points they are just one clear of Al Fujairah, who have a game in hand.
In the earlier matches, at Al Nasr, Sebastian Tagliabue’s 90th minute penalty helped the hosts edge Al Dhafra 3-2 in an intense affair that saw the visitors wipe away a two-goal deficit wrought about by a brace from Antonio Jose de Carvalho. Makhete Diop and Mohammed Al Jneibi scored once each in five minutes to bring Al Dhafra level. Al Dhafra would finish the game with 10 men though after Issam El Adoua was sent off for handling the ball on the goal-line which led to the match-winning penalty scored by Tagliabue.
Khorfakkan surprised Al Wasl 2-1 at the Zabeel Stadium to officially guarantee their spot in next season’s Arabian Gulf League. Dodo and Ismail Al Hamadi netted inside the first 30 minutes to put Khorfakkan two up, with an own goal from Kouame Autonne reducing the margin of defeat for Al Wasl.
Al Ain failed to hold on to a 1-0 lead at Ittihad Kalba, with Kodjo Laba’s 18th minute strike being negated by Peniel Mlapa’s successful penalty conversion in the 31st that led to a 1-1 draw.