UAE club football's reigning champions top of the table as two other games on opening day end in draws.
Henk ten Cate not happy despite Al Jazira's winning start to AGL title defence
Al Jazira began their Arabian Gulf League title defence with a hard-fought win over Ajman on Friday night.
The Abu Dhabi side, who won the 2016/17 season in record fashion, edged out their opponents 2-1 at home to take three points and go top of the table, with the two other games of the day ending in draws. Emirates finished 3-3 against Al Dhafra, while Sharjah were held to a goalless draw at home to Al Nasr.
Even as Jazira were made to work hard to defeat newly-promoted Ajman at Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium, it was the perfect start to life at the club for summer signing Romarinho, who scored an assist and a goal.
The Brazilian forward, who arrived from Qatar’s El Jaish after a two-year spell and scoring 40 goals in 72 Qatari Stars League appearances, made a superb pass to UAE striker Ali Mabkhout, who scored in the 16th minute. Mabkhout continued from where he left off, having been the record-breaking top scorer last season, with 33 league goals.
Ajman, however, struck back in the 62nd minute when Bakary Kone took advantage of a misplaced pass from Jazira centre-back Fares Juma, sending a through pass to a grateful Waleed Khalid, who scored the equaliser.
With just 10 minutes on the clock, Romarinho capitalised on a mix up in the Ajman defence following a Mbark Boussoufa free-kick to finish with his left foot for a first goal - and the winner.
AGL talking points: Al Jazira force to be reckoned with
Victory on Friday extended Jazira’s winning streak at home to 13 from last season, but manager Henk ten Cate said the result was the only positive could take from the game.
“It was out first game, yes, but I’m not impressed at all with our performance,” said the Dutchman, who has had a dream run with his side since he took over mid-season in 2015/16.
“The only positive I can take forward is the three points from this game. We tried an offensive tactic and it didn’t work out well at all. We’ll not try it again.
“We’ll re-think of our next ploy on a different line and come back stronger as a team for the next match.”
The 62-year-old manager conceded he was not happy with the attitude of his players on the night.
“They take it for granted that they are the champions and meeting a promoted side would be easy to win,” he added. “This attitude must be taken out of their mind completely. I’m not blaming any players and not talk against any player. But for me, team and teamwork are paramount."
In Ras Al Khaimah Ahmed Malallah put Emirates, the home team, ahead on 19 minutes from Al Hassan Saleh’s cross from the left flank.
Ailton Almeida, who moved from Jazira, was on target with a spot kick to cancel the lead in the 39th minute.
The home side regained the lead through Moroccan Abdelghani Mouaui before Almeida, but was short-lived when Almeida netted his second goal.
Almeida completed a hat-trick in the 72nd minute, striking from the edge of the box, courtesy of a pass from former Al Ain player Saeed Al Kathiri. The visitors had taken the lead for the first time in the match.
It eventually required Sebastian Leto, the former Liverpool winger, just three minutes on the pitch to mark his debut with a goal as the home team escaped with a point.