x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Ahli bring down high-flying Jazira

In a country like the UAE that reportedly has almost 50 per cent of the world's cranes, things can change rapidly.

DUBAI // In a country like the UAE that reportedly has almost 50 per cent of the world's cranes, things can change rapidly. Last weekend, Rafael Sobis was untouchable. The Dh65 million man had scored a hat-trick as Al Jazira crushed Al Shaab 5-0 in the Etisilat Cup and fans were already dreaming of the Black Spiders lifting a first league title. On Saturday night, however, as Jazira slumped to a 1-0 defeat to Al Ahli, Sobis trudged off the pitch at the Sheikh Rashid Stadium looking like an Olympic winner who had just been stripped of his medal.

Ahli's defensive duo of Khalid Mohammed and Obaid Khalifa had stifled any attacking threat Sobis and Brazilian compatriot Fernando Baiano conjured up. The Red Knights' own Samba striker Barry compounded their misery by firing a low drive past goalkeeper Ali Khusif following some impressive trickery in the area by the Emirati playmaker Ismail Al Hammadi. The result saw coach Abel Braga's men slip to third as Ahli leapfrogged them into second place, one point behind leaders Al Ain.

Braga remained confident that he had a side can last the pace over the course of the season and said the only reason Sobis and Co didn't get on the score-sheet was bad luck. "We played very good in the first half and caused more problems for Ahli than they did for us," said the Brazilian. "We got more chances in the second half, but they got one scoring opportunity and took it. "Our defence was out of position and it allowed them in, but this is normal in football; people make mistakes. If you get a chance to score and you take it then you deserve to score. But we didn't have the luck at the crucial moments of the game. I remain convinced that we are a better side than Ahli."

The Red Devils had gone the previous three games without victory. Coach Ivan Hasek put his team's turnaround down to team spirit and a unity within the squad. "It's very important that every player played [on Saturday] as part of a team," said the Czech. "There were no individuals out there. I chose the best 11 players who were in the best frame of mind because the last three results have been poor.

"This match was very important and I was glad to see the players play for each other. That is why we won." Elsewhere, two magical goals from Javad Kazemian helped Ajman stun hosts Sharjah 2-1. Kazemian opened the scores in the 27th minute, but Anderson equalised for Sharjah from the spot three minutes later. A second goal from the former Iranian international in the 68th minute, however, sealed the promoted club's second win from four games of the season.

sports@thenational.ae