Dubai: Defending champions Sharjah maintained their perch at the top while runners-up Shabab Al Ahli Dubai dropped vital points away to Khor Fakkan in the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) over the weekend.
Influential playmaker Igor Coronado converted from the spot in the first half as Sharjah grabbed full points against Al Jazira at the Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium, while Shabab Al Ahli Dubai dropped their guard towards the end to allow Khor Fakkan to come from behind and snatch a 2-2 draw and their first point of the season at the Saqr Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi.
Much of the attention was on the match of the week as Sharjah travelled to the capital to take on the Pride of Abu Dhabi. After both sides had managed to create scoring opportunities early in the first half, Coronado who was brought down in the box by Khalifa Al Hammadi and the Brazilian stepped up and converted into the bottom left corner of the net to hand the King the lead in the 38th minute.
UAE national team striker Ali Mabkhout had a couple of opportunities to level the scores. The first one came three minutes before the break when he controlled the ball well, but saw his effort go inches wide of goal.
The 30-year-old forward next missed a chance after receiving a defence-splitting pass from Ramadan that allowed him to beat his markers, yet he missed the target again.
Sharjah is the only team with an all-win record for 15 points from the five matches played so far, while Al Jazira slipped into seventh place with eight points following two wins, two draws and a loss.
A complacent Shabab Al Ahli Dubai dropped vital points to Khor Fakkan. The visitors took the lead in the 20th minute when Khor Fakkan defender Ahmed Essa deflected a cross from the right into the back of his own goal. Ten minutes later, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai doubled their lead when Igor Jesus headed in off a corner. But the home team didn’t give up and pulled one back two minutes from half-time Dodô’s header found the far corner past an onrushing Majid Nasser.
Midway through the second half, Khor Fakkan bagged their equaliser when Juninho’s cross wen to Ricardinho inside the box and the latter fired home to help the home team pick up their first point of the season.
This was Shabab Al Ahli Dubais third draw of the season to take their tally to nine points and fifth place, while Khor Fakkan continue at the other side of the standings with four defeats and one point.
Meanwhile, 13-time AGL champions Al Ain got their campaign back on track with a hard-fought 4-1 win over Al Dhafra at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium.
Khalid Al Senani, who received the ‘Goalkeeper of the Month’ award for October, continued his impressive form while bringing off a number of saves to deny Al Ain from taking an early lead.
It was Dutch forward Mikhail Rosheuvel who gave Al Dhafra the lead on the 20th minute when a quick counter-attack saw him one-on-one with Khalid Eisa to slot the ball home.
Al Ain equalised immediately after a review from VAR that saw the referee award Erik Jorgens a penalty after being brought down inside the box. Laba Kodjo stepped up and converted from the spot.
The VAR was involved again in the beginning of the second half and Al Ain were awarded a second penalty, but Laba failed to convert.
The Boss looked more dangerous after the break and had a number of chances to take the lead. Bauyrzhan Islamkhan’s effort went just inches wide of goal, while Laba’s header missed the target.
Al Ain’s pressure paid off in the final minutes as they scored two quick goals to take a 3-1 lead. Laba’s headed ball found the head of Tsukasa Shiotani, who redirected it into the upper corner of the net in 89th minute, and then a minute later, Caio’s effort was saved by Al Senani, but substitute Fahad Hadid was ready to pounce and tap in the rebound.
Laba scored a fourth in the dying moments after Al Senani denied Caio’s header, only for the rebound to fall to the Togolese forward who slotted home to hand his side a 4-1 win.
Al Ain’s second win of the season saw The Boss raise their tally to eight points and occupy sixth position, while Al Dhafra fell to their second defeat to remain in eighth place with seven points.
The UAE Football Association will conduct Round 2 preliminary matches of the Arabian Gulf Cup on November 12-13 while the AGL will take a break due to international engagements.
Al Ain 4 Al Dhafra 1
Ajman 0 Bani Yas 0
Al Jazira 0 Sharjah 1
Khor Fakkan 2 Shabab Al Ahli Dubai 2
Hatta 0 Al Nasr 3
Al Wahda 3 Al Wasl 2
Kalba 1 Fujairah 0