Arabian Gulf League leaders Al Ahli should remain wary of their nearest neighbours after Al Shabab took another three points to stay within reach of them at the top.
AL SHABAB 1 AL SHAAB 0
Al Shabab - Edgar Bruno 68’
Man of the Match - Azizbek Haydarov (Al Shabab)
DUBAI // Accepted wisdom says that champion sides always eke out a positive result even when playing below their best.
By that reckoning, league leaders Al Ahli should remain wary of their nearest neighbours after Al Shabab took another three points on Friday night to stay within reach of them at the top of the Arabian Gulf League.
They eventually disposed of lowly Al Shaab at the Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium.
But to call it an ugly win is underplaying it.
This match would have lost a beauty to contest against either of Cinderella’s sisters.
“Today the most important thing was the three points,” said Marcos Paqueta, the Shabab manager, whose side remain six points behind Ahli.
“It wasn’t our day. We dominated the possession and the chances but we couldn’t translate it into goals.
“My players deserve credit for the way they persisted.”
The Brazilian coach, who is overseeing an unheralded title challenge at the Mamzar club, reckons his side have become victims of their own success.
“It is not us whose performances have degraded – the other teams are playing differently against us now,” Paqueta said.
“When teams play with eight or nine players behind the ball, and two centre defenders who are more than two metres tall, it is very difficult to penetrate.
“We scored a late goal here. If we had scored earlier, maybe it would have been a more open game.”
These two sides might only be separated by a few miles and a lone consonant, but there was a significant gulf in class between them here.
Shabab were basically playing attack versus defence from the point when Michael N’dri, the away side’s only serious goal threat, hobbled off.
He crumpled under a challenge after half an hour and was substituted.
N’dri sat in the stands in his going-out clothes before the second half had started.
Shaab were toothless from then on, but they did prove difficult to break down thanks to the doughty defence of Spencer Silva Lima.
Paqueta moved to break the deadlock when he removed Adel Abdullah, the defensive midfielder, who had arguably been the game’s best player until that point, after 65 minutes.
The tactical alteration was immediately effective.
Within two minutes, the hosts had the lead when Edgar Bruno headed in Dawood Ali’s left-wing cross.
Zeljko Petrovic, the Shaab manager, was fulsome in his praise of the endeavor of his players.
But he fears his meagre resources are now being stretched to their limit as they battle to avoid the drop.
“Our mentality and effort was perfect, but we missed Michael,” Petrovic said of the early loss of N’dri.
“Every game is a difficult game for us and today we lost against a better team.
“My only preoccupation is that I only have one striker – Michael. If something happens to him, we might as well all go home.
“I hope it isn’t a big injury because it will be problematic if we are without him.”
SHARJAH 3 DUBAI 0
It took until the second half to break down a stubborn Dubai, but Sharjah came out on top with a 3-0 win.
Yousif Saeed Juma and Ahmed Khamis’ goals plus a Salem Khamis penalty handed victory to the hosts, moving them level on 33 points with Al Jazira.
Dubai remain in last place on just nine points.
Sharjah got their noses in front in the second half, taking the lead in the 73rd minute through Juma. Six minutes later Sharjah were awarded a penalty after Ali Al Dhaheri felled Omar Juma in the area, and Salem Khamis stepped up to convert a confident spot kick.
Ahmed Khamis completed the scoring with Sharjah’s third, overcoming several blocks before squeezing a finish into the net from close range.
AL WASL 0 AJMAN 1
Waheed Ismail and the Al Wasl defence did their best to frustrate but Mansour Mohamed Abbas’s goal at the 37th minute gave all three points to the visitors on Friday night.
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