Dubai: Defending champions Sharjah crashed to only their second defeat of the season with a 2-1 loss to Al Ain, while cellar-placed Hatta clinched their first-ever win of the season in the Arabian Gulf League over the weekend.
Comfortably placed at the top of the standings heading into the second leg of matches, Sharjah went down against 13-time champions Al Ain, while Hatta hit a new high with a 3-0 thrashing of Ajman.
Despite the loss, Sharjah held on to top spot, but Al Jazira will be fancying their chances for a final push after the Pride of Abu Dhabi handed out a tennis-like 6-0 win against Kalba.
Sharjah have suffered a slight wobble in the middle of December last year following a solitary goal loss to Bani Yas. The defending champions then struggled for a 3-2 win at home against Fujairah and followed that with a 1-1 draw against Al Wahda last week.
Playing at home, Sharjah showed more purpose and were rewarded early when Caio Lucas’s left-footed strike found the back of the Al Ain net in the 10th minute. Yahya Nader found an equaliser for Al Ain as his powerful long-range effort hit the woodwork before settling into the back of the net, leaving Sharjah goalkeeper Darwish Mohammad on the wrong foot.
Al Ain goalkeeper Khalid Eisa denied Luan Pereira’s close-range effort, and then saw Kodjo Laba find the winner with less than 20 minutes to go. Darwish blocked an effort from Shoya Nakajima and the ball fell to the feet of Laba, and the Togolese forward had to only tap home to hand the former 13-time champions three crucial points and maintain pressure on the leaders with 27 points in fourth place.
In Abu Dhabi, Ali Mabkhout took his season’s personal tally to 14 with a hat-trick to hand Kalba a 6-0 thrashing. The Al Jazira and UAE striker made it 2-0 in the 15th minute after Abdullah Idrees had opened the scoring on the fifth minute.
Goals from Khalfan Mubarak and Khalifa Al Hammadi ensured a comfortable 4-0 cushion for AL Jazira at half-time. Mabkout needed only six minutes after the restart to net his second and then complete his hat-trick during injury time to seal a huge win.
Fabio Lima netted late in the match in the Bur Dubai derby as Al Wasl picked up full points. Playing away at the Al Maktoum Stadium, Lima’s perfectly timed volley in the 76th minute proved to be the difference.
Hatta’s 3-0 drubbing of Ajman was their first victory this season. After a goalless first half, it was the home side who took the lead. They were awarded a penalty after Abdullah Kazim was brought down inside the box. Jonathas, who is on loan from Sharjah, converted from the spot. The home side were awarded a second penalty after reviewing VAR and Jonathas once again made no mistake in the 82nd minute. Hatta put the issue beyond doubt deep into injury time when Nahir Besara’s cross found Ahmad Malallah to tap in.
Shabab Al Ahli Dubai 2 Al Wahda 2
Khor Fakkan 1 Bani Yas 2
Hatta 3 Ajman 0
Sharjah 1 Al Ain 2
Kalba 0 Al Jazira 6
Fujairah 4 Al Dhafra 2
Al Nasr 0 Al Wasl 1
1. Sharjah 36
2. Al Jazira 36
3. Bani Yas 32
4. Al Ain 27
5. Al Nasr 27
6. Shabab Al Ahli Dubai 27
7. Al Wasl 26
8. Al Wahda 24
9. Kalba 22
10. Al Dhafra 16
11. Khor Fakkan 15
12. Fujairah 10
13. Ajman 9
14. Hatta 5