ABU DHABI // Asamoah Gyan proved his worth in goals. The Ghana international, on a one-year-loan from the Premier League club Sunderland, scored twice as Al Ain extended their lead at the top of the Pro League after a 3-1 win over Al Jazira.
Gyan was gifted with an early goal and he rounded off the win with a late second to send the travelling Al Ain support into wild celebration.
Juma Abdullah had struck the equaliser for Jazira early in the second half but Fawzi Fayez regained the lead for the visitors with a fierce shot that deflected off Lucas Neill to catch Khalid Essa, the goalkeeper, on the wrong foot.
Jazira's defence had a nightmarish game and contributed to the team's defeat in front of an enthralled crowd of 21,445 last night at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.
The league defeat was the first at home for Jazira in 29 matches. They last fell at their capital fortress on March 6, 2009, losing 4-2 to Al Ahli. The Dubai side went on to win the title that season; Al Ain will be hoping history repeats.
The margin of victory could have been more had Al Ain been on target from the defensive mistakes.
Ali Al Wehaibi's low shot off another weak clearance from Neill crashed against the post and Gyan was off target after Abdullah fumbled with a clearance.
The opening goal had Jazira unsettled from the onset in what was billed as a potentially title-deciding game.
Cosmin Olaroiu, the Al Ain coach, however, dismissed that notion, saying it was too early to talk about the league.
"I can only say we are in a good position after this win, and I am extremely happy the way my team played," said the Romanian. "Now the difficult part for us is to maintain our position on top of the league."
Olaroiu praised his star player, Gyan.
"He has been close to all the players and a great motivation for the team," Olaroiu said. "He leads by example and he's been a real good addition to the team."
Gyan was beaming in a post-match TV interview. "It's really, really important for us because Jazira is one of the top clubs in the UAE," he said.
Franky Vercauteren, the Jazira coach, was understandably unhappy with the work of his defenders.
"Our work became very hard after we conceded a goal from a silly defensive mistake," said the Belgian.
"Both goals that we conceded were through mistakes. I wouldn't blame anyone for the third goal because at that time we were pushing for an equaliser and the opposition took advantage.
"However, these are lessons we have to learn from. I don't blame any individuals in making mistakes. These things happen and it happened in this opening. We have to put this behind and look ahead from now."
Neill, the Australian defender, casually passed the ball towards Essa and his attempted clearance was deflected straight back into the goal by Gyan.
They nearly conceded a second but, fortunately for Jazira, Al Wehaibi's low shot hit the post after Neill's clearance off a dipping cross from the left flank by Gyan fell into the Al Ain winger's path.
Jazira shook off their early setback and began to move forward. Bare, the Brazilian forward, was felled by Fares Juma on a high ball but Matias Delgado was wide with the free kick from just outside the area. The Argentine had a second effort much closer to the goal.
Gyan's second goal was his ninth, putting him atop the scoring table, two clear of Jazira's Ricardo Oliveira, absent last night on a one-match ban.
The result took Al Ain's tally to 20 points from eight games, four more than Jazira.