Al Ain gain some breathing room at the top of the AGL table
AL NASR 1 AL AIN 2
Al Nasr - Holman 20’
Al Ain - O Abdulrahman 39’, Kembo Ekoko 42’
Man of the match - Omar Abdulrahman (Al Ain)
DUBAI // Omar Abdulrahman toe-poked a low shot into the Al Nasr net, ignored his colleagues’ congratulations and made a beeline for the ball.
The Al Ain playmaker could have been forgiven for celebrating the equalising goal at Al Maktoum Stadium on Saturday night, since it represented only his second tally during an uncharacteristically barren Arabian Gulf League campaign.
Thirty-nine minutes had elapsed, too, so this was not a belated bid to rally troops for a last-gasp winner.
Abdulrahman’s zeal was warranted. Four victories from the final five rounds of the season were required to secure the league leaders a third championship in four seasons, and second-placed Al Jazira refuse to go away.
So, against Nasr, the Garden City side could not afford to wilt.That, they did not.
Once Abdulrahman had cancelled out Brett Holman’s 20th-minute goal – a sly back-heel after Ibrahima Toure had knocked down a Pablo Hernandez corner – within three minutes, the UAE midfielder started a move that eventually provided Al Ain the lead.
Quick, intricate play between Abdulrahman, Ibrahim Diaky, Lee Myung-joo and Jires Kembo Ekoko finished with the French striker curling past a helpless Ahmed Shambiah in the Nasr goal.
With it, Al Ain had gleaned three precious points.
“I told my players this game would be key for the league today, but we’ll see. We have four games left,” said Zlatko Dalic, the Al Ain coach.
“We have done a great job until now.
“We played a fantastic game. We conceded a goal very early but didn’t lose confidence, our head, nothing, The second half we had some chances, although our target was to keep the result.
“My team dominated, played very well and deserved it.”
But for Diaky’s wastefulness in the opening 30 minutes, Al Ain would have been home and dry before half time.
The Ivorian started the match as one of an attacking quartet for the visitors, in Asamoah Gyan’s continued absence, but he conspired to spurn three decent opportunities until Abdulrahman stepped forward.
Nasr had little in reply. Once an obdurate opponent in front of their own support, a run of two victories from 10 league encounters has left the Dubai club flaky and floundering.
They could conclude this weekend seventh in the table. That Arabian Gulf Cup success, deep into January, seems a long time ago.
“All these latest results in the league mean we stay far from the fourth position,” said Ivan Jovanovic, the Nasr coach.
“Football is like this. We have four games still to play. We have to give our best until the end.”
Al Ain will care little for the vanquished, though, as they creep ever closer to another top-flight championship.
The pressure now shifts to Jazira for Sunday night’s Abu Dhabi derby against Al Wahda. Nasr negotiated, Al Ain have laid another challenge firmly at their rivals’ door.
AJMAN ARE CLOSE TO DROP AFTER HEAVY LOSS
Sharjah thrashed Ajman 4-1 at Sharjah Stadium to confirm their survival in the top flight and send their opponents one step closer to relegation.
Two goals by Rodriguinho and one each from Mauricio Ramos and Wanderley lifted Sharjah’s points tally to 25, meaning they can no longer be dragged into danger.
Ajman stay stranded in the relegation zone and are 10 points adrift of safety with just four games to play.
Sharjah seized an early lead when Brazilian playmaker Rodriguinho collected Bader Abdulrahman’s throw-in from the right-hand touchline outside the area and turned to hit a left-footed strike from distance into the top corner of Mutaz Abdulla’s goal.
Two minutes later, the hosts were 2-0 up after Marion Silva Fernandes curled a free kick delivery onto the head of centre-back Mauricio Ramos, who powered a header into the back of the net. Wanderley made it 3-0 at the 60th minute, but Rafael Crivellaro drew one back for Ajman less than a minute later. Rodriguinho finished the scoring at the 76th minute.
At Kalba, Papa Waigo scored in the 90th minute to lift the already-relegated hosts to a 1-0 win over Al Dhafra.
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Updated: April 11, 2015 04:00 AM