x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Jazira ready to take leading role

Al Jazira have long been the bridesmaids in the Pro League, but they are off to another promising start.

SHARJAH // Al Jazira have long been the bridesmaids in the Pro League, finishing runners-up for the past three seasons. But, coming back stronger every time, they are off to another promising start with a 2-1 victory at Sharjah last night. The Abu Dhabi powerhouses, who have lost just once in their last 31 league, started their campaign this season with a 3-0 win over Al Nasr at home last week. Abdullah Mousa was one of the goalscorers in that game and he gave the visitors a sixth-minute lead last night. Marcelinho, however, brought Sharjah level in the 57th minute from a penalty, but another spot-kick at the other end, two minutes from time, gave Jazira maximum points from the game. Farid Ali, the referee, found Musa Hatab guilty of infringing Abdullah Qassem. Ibrahim Diaky, the veteran midfielder, converted expertly. Jazira's last defeat in the Pro League came in the 14th round of last season, at eventual champions Al Wahda on Valentine's Day, and they have looked the most convincing of the top sides this season, although Baniyas for the moment also has six points. Wearing their bright red kit for the first time, Jazira got off to a dazzling start as well when the wide midfielder Mousa headed in Toni's corner. Six minutes later, Toni, the striker from the Ivory Coast, attempted a spectacular bicycle kick that brought the stands to their feet, and it did not miss the goal by much. Sharjah could find few openings, with Salah Basheer keeping a tight leash on Marcelinho. The frustrated but unrelenting Brazilian striker changed tactics and took his chances from distance, one of which missed the target by inches in the 26th minute. As they came out after the break, the home side upped the ante and gave Ali Khasif, the Jazira goalkeeper, a thorough workout. Robinho had a shot blocked, Marcelinho had a header on target, and Nawaf Mubarak unleashed a scorcher from midfield. All those efforts were in vain as Khasif stood strong, foiling a clever little flick from Marcelinho in the 51st minute. Sharjah's sustained efforts finally paid off in the 57th minute when Basheer's tackle on Mohammed Suroor led to a penalty. Marcelinho converted into the right corner with aplomb. The equaliser prompted Abel Braga, the Jazira coach, to make a double substitution in the 70th minute, bringing Matias Delgado on for Toni and Ahmed Jumaa for Sultan Bargash. Qassem replaced Bare and he earned the penalty.

arizvi@thenational.ae Sharjah Marcelinho 57' Al Jazira Mousa 6', Diaky (pen) 90' Man of the match Marcelinho (Sharjah)