AL AIN // Alexandre Gallo, Al Ain's new Brazilian coach, was given the warmest of welcomes by his players as they handed him a victory in his first game in charge.
Gallo's men came from a goal down to beat Al Dhafra yesterday and open up a six-point lead at the top of Group A in the Etisalat Cup.
The one sour note for Al Ain was that a crowd of just 851 turned up to mark the arrival of the new coach at the Tahnoun bin Mohammed Stadium.
Dhafra drew first blood when Boris Kabi scored with a header from a corner in the 36th minute.
But Ibrahim Keita cancelled out Dhafra's lead just two minutes into the second half as he scored from the penalty spot after Mohammed Saif was felled by Ahmed al Musabeh.
Two minutes later, Mohammed was on target himself with a well-taken goal from just inside the area to give Al Ain the lead.
The victory was secured 15 minutes from time as Juma Saeed scored on a counter-attack.
Mohammed Salem did pull one back two minutes from time, but it came too late for Dhafra.
Gallo was naturally delighted to have got his reign off to a winning start.
He said: "It is a very positive result that every coach would have dreamed of on his first game in charge.
"I am so happy with my players. They gave me the best welcome gift and did everything that I was expecting from them.
"I am not saying they were perfect but the result is good for the confidence of the players and more importantly for the fans. This result is also very important because it relieves a lot of pressure before we start on some real good work."
Al Ain were without Jose Sand, their top scorer, who was left out because of an injury, but Waleed Salem, their first-choice goalkeeper, was back after suffering back injury in his first game of the season.
Alexandre Guimaraes, the Dhafra coach, felt his side's poor start to the second half had proven to be their downfall.
"We allowed them to get back to the game by conceding a penalty in the second minute of the second half," he said.
"Then a couple of mistakes led them to two more goals. It was a poor second half. That's how it worked out for us on the night but we are not out of the race after this defeat."