x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Al Jazira's Khater pencils in title showdown with Al Ain

The veteran midfielder hopes the Pro League leaders slip up in their next two games, before the two sides meet on April 27.

Al Jazira's Ibrahim Diaky, left, tries to shield the ball against Ajman's Jasem Al Mohammed.
Al Jazira's Ibrahim Diaky, left, tries to shield the ball against Ajman's Jasem Al Mohammed.

ABU DHABI // Subait Khater says Al Jazira will continue to "hang in there" and keep the pressure on Al Ain ahead of the potentially league-deciding clash between the two sides next month.

Jazira laboured to a narrow win over Ajman yesterday to momentarily close the gap on the league leaders to four points, but Al Ain quickly restored their seven-point cushion with a routine 4-1 victory over Sharjah in the late game.

Khater, the veteran midfielder, is hoping Al Ain slip up in their next two games, against Baniyas and Al Wasl, before Jazira and Al Ain meet at Tahnoon bin Mohamed Stadium in Al Ain on April 27.

"We have two more games before we meet Al Ain," Khater said. "We may get lucky if they drop some points. But the important thing for us is to keep winning and hang in there until we meet them in what could be a decider."

The victory was Jazira's second in a week, coming four days after they beat Al Rayyan 3-2 in the Asian Champions League to take the lead atop Group A.

"It was tough, when coming from a hard midweek game, but the positives are that we won another three points to stay second behind Al Ain," Khater said.

Caio Junior, the Jazira coach, said he was "relieved" after securing the slender win thanks to a goal from Bare, his Brazilian compatriot.

"In Brazil, we have a saying that to win is relief," Caio Junior said. "I am relieved and happy because it was our third win in two weeks, and for the second time we have come out of a league game without conceding a goal."

He said the game "panned out exactly as we anticipated".

Ajman's damage-limitation approach was illustrated by the fact they detailed one man to mark Ricardo Oliveira, the Pro League's leading scorer and most expensive player.

"We had to change his position to play more on the left, and he was more effective in the second half," Caio Junior said.

Oliveira broke free from his marker to set up the winner for Bare just past the hour mark. It was the ninth goal for Bare, who has regained his place in the first XI since Caio Junior replaced Franky Vercauteren as coach 17 days ago.

Ali Mesmari, the Ajman goalkeeper, made several good saves to keep the margin of victory to the minimum.

"We were playing against one of the best teams in the league and we did quite well to keep them to the minimum margin in the defeat," Abdulwahab Abdulkader, the Ajman coach, said.

apassela@thenational.ae

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