x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Jazira toughing it out

Al Jazira regained the top spot in the Etisalat Pro League, at least for 24 hours, after beating Al Dhafra at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.

Al Jazira's Saleh Obaid, right, fends off Dhafra's Yaqoub Yousef during their narrow win.
Al Jazira's Saleh Obaid, right, fends off Dhafra's Yaqoub Yousef during their narrow win.

ABU DHABI // Al Jazira regained the top spot in the Etisalat Pro League, at least for 24 hours, after beating at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium. The three points had to be earned as the knights of the western region made their more famous opponents fight all the way to the end, first with their spoiling work and after the deadlock was broken, a more attacking minded approach.

Jazira started as they were expected to, attacking from the whistle. They nearly went ahead in the second minute, with a powerful close-range header from Brazilian Fernando Baiano, only to see it go wide, off a left cross from Saleh Obaid. They missed a few more opportunities before Baiano nailed home a pass from Obaid in the 42nd minute, which opened up the game with the visitors coming twice close for the equaliser.

Rasoul Khatibi's strike from the edge crashed against the Jazira crossbar and Ali Saeed Khamis' effort from inside the area was brilliantly pushed over the bar by Ali Kashief for Jazira to hold on to the lead at the break. Jazira had several close misses. Ahmed Dada's pass fell too far for Rafael Sobis, Marcio Rozario's sliding effort sailed over the woodwork, Obaid's volley went straight to Abdulbasit Mohammed and Baiano failed to latch on to a cross.

Dhafra had a couple of chances, which Khatibi wasted. The Iran international was late on the shot after Saleh al Minhali had set him up inside the box and failed to control a second pass in front of the goalmouth. Rafael Sobis came close twice to doubling the lead in the first 10 minutes after the break, the first effort narrowly missing the near side of the net and he was then denied by Abdulbasit with a superb save diving to his left.

Ibrahim Diaky, who was setup by Sobis inside the area, was denied by the charging Abdulbasit in the closing stages of the game. In-between, Dhafra had an opportunity to equalise, but Khairi Khalfan's shot went wide from close range. Kashief later fumbled a free-kick from Tawfiq Zerara, a France-based Algerian, but fortunately for him, there were no one to take the spilt chance. The result took Jazira's tally to 16 points but they could be overhauled if Al Ahli or Al Ain win tonight.

apassela@thenational.ae