AL AIN // If the numerous supporters of the country's most successful top-flight club prefer to think the worst is over, they may want to reconsider. Al Ain, nine times a league champion, show no signs of revival.
The club went into last night's Pro League home game with Al Nasr at Tahnoon bin Mohammed Stadium in the relegation zone, and they were still there when the match ended.
Nasr's prolific Ismael Bangoura scored in the 28th minute, Rodrigo Vergilio converted in the 68th, and that was enough to subdue Al Ain 2-1 before a crowd of 4,873.
There was some good news for the home side though as they came to terms with their latest setback on the pitch.
The first bit was the goal scored by Elias Ribiero, Al Ain's new Brazilian, his first in the UAE, on a penalty in the 79th minute.
It was not enough to change the outcome of the game, but it was a start for Elias.
Also, the club has help on the horizon. Jeremie Aliadiere, a French striker with extensive experience in the Premier League, including with Arsenal, Wolves and Middlesbrough, has signed with the club. Alexandre Gallo, the coach, would not speculate when the club might see Aliadiere, 27, on the pitch. But he is on the way.
Nasr, meanwhile, now cannot be faulted for harbouring hopes of a top-three finish and a place in the 2012 Asian Champions League.
The addition of Virgilio, the Brazilian forward sometimes known as "Careca", has given Walter Zenga's squad a cutting edge, in tandem with Bangoura, that compares favorably to any in the league.
They are on 19 points and sit among the front half of the pack chasing leaders Al Jazira, and their manager, the former Italian international Walter Zenga, who coached at Al Ain in 2007, was pleased.
"This game is six points, not three points, because we keep Al Ain far away from us and that is very important," he said. "It's also important for the morale of my club.
"We had some players who are hurt or coming back from injury. This three points is very important to us."
Meanwhile, Gallo has five days to work some magic or his side could be in trouble against the Indonesian side Sriwijaya of Palembang in a play-off to determine who joins Group F for the Asian Champions League.
Elsewhere last night, Al Wahda fell further behind in their chase of a second successive title when Al Ahli came from behind to beat the Pro League champions 2-1, thanks to a brace from Pinga.
The former Wahda man levelled things before scoring the late winner from a spot kick in a game that turned into high drama after the referee Mohammed Abdulkarim al Zarouni reversed a spot-kick awarded to Wahda.
It appeared Tariq Ahmed, the Al Ahli defender, had tripped Saeed al Kathiri, the substitute.
But he changed the decision and later awarded a penalty against them when Ismail al Hammadi went crashing down in what appeared to be a deliberate dive from a slight touch from Abdulraheem Jumaa.
Fernando Baiano, the Brazilian forward, put Wahda ahead in the 18th minute with his ninth goal of the season, before Pinga levelled five minutes into the second half.
The midfielder playing against his former club was clinical on the one-on-one with Mutaz Abdulla, the Wahda goalkeeper, after Abdulla Abdulrahman had set him clear.