x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Ajman 1 Al Ahli 2

Ahli continue impressive away form to move into second spot, and Grafite hits his 18th-minute goal of the season.

Grafite, centre, scored Al Ahli's second of the night and his 18th of the season in last night's match against Ajman. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Grafite, centre, scored Al Ahli's second of the night and his 18th of the season in last night's match against Ajman. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

AJMAN // Al Ahli extended their impressive away record last night with a 2-1 win over Ajman, who finished the game with 10 men.

Grafite and Achille Emana gave the visitors a 2-0 first-half lead, but Boris Kabi pulled one back three minutes after the interval to raise hopes of a comeback for Ajman, but those hopes were dashed 14 minutes from the end when Khalaf Ismail was shown a red card for a second bookable offence, following his lunge at Ismail Al Hammadi.

Ahli have now won five of their six away matches and drawn the other. At home, they have only two wins from six matches, three draws and a loss. This win allowed Quique Sanchez Flores's team to stay in second place with 25 points, six behind leaders Al Ain and one ahead of Al Jazira. Ajman are 11th with 12 points.

It was a disappointing performance from Ajman, especially in the opening 45 minutes, as they failed to threaten the Ahli goal. The lack of service clearly frustrated forward Founeke Sy, who could be heard screaming "come on" at his teammates as yet another pass went astray. On the rare occasion the ball was fed into him, Ahli's Lebanese defender Yousuf Mohammed was on hand to nick the ball away.

Ahli, on the other hand, were fluent, and well-drilled. Grafite, the darling of the crowd, was the orchestrator of the attacks. A crisp turn and volley in the 14th minute brought the fans to their feet; it was Grafite's first proper attempt of the night but cleared the crossbar by a distance.

In the 25th minute, he did much better. The Brazilian forward toyed with an Ajman defender before hitting an unstoppable shot into the far corner, wheeling away towards his teammates to celebrate his 18th league goal of the season.

Emana then made it 2-0 two minutes before the break, blasting home after Majed Hassan had forced his way into the Ajman area but fallen over as he attempted a shot.

It could have been 3-0 before the half-time whistle, but Grafite missed the target by inches in time added on.

The break reinvigorated Ajman and three minutes after the restart Kabi reduced the arrears, forcing his way past Yousuf Mohammed and then placing the ball to the far corner.

Ajman tried hard to find the equaliser but their efforts received a setback in the 76th minute when Ismail was given his marching orders.

Ajman, however, still should have levelled the scores on 79 minutes, but Sy headed over with an open goal in front of him. Kabi also had a good chance as well in the 85th minute, but he blasted the ball wide.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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