Dubai: Round 13 of the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) witnessed some lopsided results with Sharjah maintaining their position at the top of the standings heading into the midway stage of the competition over the weekend.
Currently lying in 11th place, Khor Fakkan sprang the biggest surprise with a 3-0 result against contenders Al Jazira, while Bani Yas secured a convincing 2-0 win over neighbours Al Wahda to move into third place.
Hosting Kalba, Sharjah banked on a 36th-minute strike from their Uzbekistan playmaker Otabek Shukurov to get full points against the visitors. Shukurov, who is a regular with the Uzbek national team, unleashed a power-packed effort from outside the area that sailed into the far corner of the goal as the defending champions.
Undeterred, Kalba kept on pressing for an equaliser but Sharjah goalkeeper Adel Al Hosani pulled off a great save to deny Peniel Mlapa at the beginning of the second half. The King now have 32 points as they head into a mini-break with their position secured at the top.
A goal in each half was enough for Bani Yas to return home with the win at Al Wahda. The home side controlled proceedings early and Bani Yas goalkeeper Fahad Al Dhanhani — who was handed the Best Goalkeeper award for December — pulled off a fine save to deny Paul-Jose M’Poku’s header in the 14th minute.
But Bani Yas took the lead in the 34th minute when a blocked effort from Joao Pedro fell to the feet of Gaston Suarez who fired a powerful effort into the back of the net, leaving Mohammad Al Shamsi helpless on the Al Wahda goal. Pedro secured full points six minutes from the full-time whistle when he accepted a cross from Suhail Al Noobi to fire into the home team goal and help the Sky Blues end the first half of the season in third place on 26 points, two above Al Nasr who dropped to fourth.
The biggest upset of the week came in Khor Fakkan as they home side bettered strong contenders Al Jazira in a convincing manner. Omar Juma’s effort was blocked by Al Jazira goalkeeper Ali Khasief in the sixth minute, but Ramon Lopes latched on to the rebound to slot home the opener.
After the visitors came close to securing an equaliser, it was Bruno Lamas who doubled the lead for Khor Fakkan five minutes away from half-time when his left-footed effort from the edge of the box sailed in.
Al Jazira thought they had reduced the deficit just after the hour-mark, but Ali Mabkhout’s effort was ruled offside after a review with the VAR.
The home side sealed the win with 20 minutes to go, when they launched a counter-attack that put Ramon Lopes in a one-on-one situation with goalkeeper Khasief and the Khor Fakkan striker tapped home to make it 3-0 and hand Al Jazira their second defeat of the season.
Meanwhile, in Dubai, Yahya Al Ghassani scored the only goal of the match in the 50th minute to help Shabab Al Ahli Dubai secure a hard-fought 1-0 win over neighbours Al Nasr.
The AGL will now take a short break to accommodate the hosting of the Arabian Gulf Super Cup between Shabab Al Ahli Dubai and Sharjah, on January 22. The second half of the AGL will resume with Round 14 on January 29-30.
Hatta 0 Al Ain 1
Sharjah 1 Kalba 0
Ajman 2 Fujairah 1
Shabab Al Ahli Dubai 1 Al Nasr 0
Al Dhafra 1 Al Wasl 1
Khor Fakkan 3 Al Jazira 0
Al Wahda 0 Bani Yas 2
1. Sharjah 32 pts
2. Al Jazira 27
3. Bani Yas 26
4. Al Nasr 24
5. Al Ain 23
6. Shabab Al Ahli Dubai 19
7. Al Wahda 19
8. Kalba 19
9. Al Wasl 17
10. Al Dhafra 16
11. Khor Fakkan 14
12. Fujairah 7
13. Ajman 6
14. Hatta 2