x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Last-gasp equaliser sends Jazira to top of table

An exquisitely placed free-kick from Subait Khater deep into added time helped Al Jazira salvage a 2-2 draw against Al Ahli.

Ahli's Ahmed Khalil battles with Khalid Sabeal, left, of Al Jazira for ball possession.
Ahli's Ahmed Khalil battles with Khalid Sabeal, left, of Al Jazira for ball possession.

DUBAI // An exquisitely placed free-kick from Subait Khater deep into added time completed a stunning comeback for Al Jazira who salvaged a draw against Al Ahli last night at the Rashid Stadium. Ahli, who saw Aristide Bance sent off in the 36th minute, had gone into the break with a two-goal cushion but were unable to hold off the relentless second-half pressure applied by the visitors from Abu Dhabi. Jumaa Abdullah, the winger, sparked the revival by pulling one back for Jazira in the 62nd minute. And then just when it appeared as though the Fabio Cannavaro-led Ahli defence had fended off the last of a dozen dangerous chances, Jazira were awarded a free kick just outside the Ahli box in the sixth minute of extra time. Khater, the UAE national midfielder, stepped up to take the kick, and his fierce strike, only inches off the ground, bent as it travelled and passed through a gap in the Ahli wall between Cannavaro and a teammate. The ball snuck inside the left post, just beyond the reach of Obaid al Taweela, the Ahli goalkeeper. Most in the crowd of around 5,000 at Rashid Stadium were as stunned as their team, which had been mere seconds away from moving into a tie atop the Pro League table. Instead, Jazira move top on eight points, with Ahli in mid-table with five from two draws and a victory in four games. Meanwhile, Jazira's record of only one defeat since the start of the 2009/10 season remains intact.

It was Bance, the striker from Burkina Faso, who put Ahli ahead in the fourth minute. Ahmed Khamis added the second Ahli goal two minutes before the break. Abdullah, the Jazira defender, scored with a sublime header from a corner. The lanky winger positioned himself close to the near post, and let the ball angle off his head at an oblique angle. The ball sailed into the far netting. Al Taweela had no chance. Jazira pushed hard for the equalizer and Tony's bicycle kick grazed the crossbar while al Taweela made an excellent save of a Khater free kick that deflected off a defender. In between, Khalid Essa made a superb save at the other end by pushing out a bullet from Abdullah Abdulrahman. Bance opened the scoring for the home side, but the tall forward from Burkina Faso was shown a red card half an hour later by the referee Mohammed al Zarouni, apparently for verbally abusing Saleh Abdulla Basheer, the Jazira defender, who was shown a yellow for his part in the discussion.

The numerical disadvantage did not prevent Ahli from doubling the lead. Khamis, left unmarked inside the box by some sloppy defending, sent a neat shot to the far corner of the net. Pinga, the Brazilian midfielder, had the first shot at the goal, but was well-held by Essa, who was making his first appearance of the season for Jazira. He played in the place of Ali Kashief, who was bereaved by the death of his father on Thursday. Pinga was the architect of the first goal. He made a superb run from the left, dribbling past two players before picking out Bance in space. Jazira's left-winger Abdullah Mousa tried to salvage the situation, but Bance, the exotically coiffed attacker, evaded the challenge and launched a powerful strike from the edge of the box. apassela@thenational.ae