Dubai: Former Uzbekistan captain Azizbek Haydarov’s seventh-minute goal was enough to hand Ajman their first points of the season with a 1-0 win against Al Nasr in the fifth week of action in the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) on Friday.
Ajman, who earned their re-entry into top-flight football after being crowned Division Two champions at the end of last season, earned their first ever victory in Division One in nearly three years.
Ajman’s last AGL win had come way back in December 2014 — a 2-0 win over Emirates Club in Round 12 of the 2014-15 season. Incidentally, that was just one of two wins that season for The Orange Brigade that ultimately led to their demotion after finishing in 13th place.
For their Egyptian coach Ayman Al Ramadi, this was a bit of a personal triumph as this was the first time he was bagging full points in top-flight competition and it was at the cost of a more accomplished team.
The result kept Ajman at the bottom of the 12-team standings, however, while Al Nasr remained in fifth place with seven points to their name.
After an early shot on the home goal which goalkeeper Ahmad Shambieh did well to save with his feet, it was the cunning Haydarov who nudged the visitors into the lead.
Much of the blame for the goal has to go to Al Nasr captain Tariq Ahmad as he failed to control a throw from his goalkeeper. The 32-year-old Uzbek, who was lurking around, pounced on the ball and let rip with a powerful left-foot shot that gave a retreating Shambieh no chance.
After that early setback, Cesar Prandelli’s men tried to make amends. But Ajman did well to defend in numbers while trying to catch their opponents on quick counters. And while the home team looked insipid and uninspired, Ajman continued showing flashes of brilliance both in attack and defence.
In fact, Ajman should have deservingly doubled their lead two minutes after the half-hour mark, but Brazilian Adeilson De Melo collided with goalkeeper Shambieh as he went in for a Bakary Kone lob.
Knowing that only a supreme effort would help them rescue at least a point, Al Nasr played with far more purpose in the second half while mounting continuous raids on the visitors’ goal. But Ajman fell back into the defence and successfully kept the home team at bay.
Al Nasr were denied a sure equaliser by the woodwork in the 76th minute after Abdul Aziz Barrada’s first-time volley from an Ahmad Ebrahim cross hit the far post and bounced back into play. They were denied a second time when a Mauro Zarate free-kick in the 87th minute skirted past the goal.
As the match wore on, the home team’s hopes faded with the sinking feeling that they had failed against a totally disciplined and organised Ajman unit.