Dubai: Defending champions Sharjah and last season’s runners-up Shabab Al Ahli Dubai were a relieved lot after keeping their campaigns on track with hard-fought wins against Fujairah and Ajman in Week Six of the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) on Thursday.
Leaders of the league since the start, Sharjah maintained their position at the top with a hard-fought 2-1 home win against Fujairah. Ricardo Gomes gave the home team the lead in the eleventh minute only to see Fernando Gabriel draw level for Fujairah during the first half injury period.
Just when it looked like the match was heading towards a second straight draw for the defending champions, Yasser Salem watched in dismay in the 84th minute as the ball entered his own goal off a deflection to hand Sharjah full points and take their tally at the top with 16 points.
“We had to work hard for these three points. Nothing can be taken for granted in football today,” Sharjah coach Abdul Aziz Al Anbari admitted.
“Our intention is always to go for full points. But today was more difficult as Fujairah were in no mood to give up after their huge loss to Al Ain last week. So we had to be cautious of what to expect from them,” he added.
After last week’s 1-0 loss to cross-city rivals Al Nasr, Rodolfo Arruabarrena’s team was expected to do well at home against a well-organised Ajman. They came close to scoring early, and did so only on the 21st minute after referee Ahmad Eisa awarded Henrique Luvannor the opener after consulting the VAR.
The home side doubled the lead in the 41st when Luvannor turned provider from the left flank for Esmail Al Hammadi to poke home. But, Ajman came right back with Bobker Trawally pulling one back in the 52nd minute. However, Yousuf Jaber headed in a Davide Mariani free kick in the 74th minute to quell nervous home fans.
“A win is a win and we are happy with the three points. We deserved to win as we did everything right from the start,” Arruabarrena told media.
“I congratulate my players, but there is hardly any time to celebrate as we have to start preparing the team for the next game [against Al Dhafrah on November 7]. The most important thing was to win and collect three points,” he added.
The young Argentine coach, however, admitted that his team is ready for the long haul. “The positive thing in our team is that we criticize ourselves and I feel this is one of our positives. After our loss to Al Nasr I asked them to be quiet, reflective and responsible while continue their hard work. All these players are aware of their tasks and they are true professionals in every sense of the word,” Arruabarrena said.
“We are in a good position and we will continue with our work while talking and communicating with each other,” he added.
Shabab Al Ahli Dubai 3 Ajman 1
Kalba 2 Bani Yas 1
Sharjah 2 Fujairah 1
Al Wasl 3 Hatta 1