AGL results: Rodrigo Lima settles Dubai derby for Al Ahli as Al Ain thrash Emirates
Al Nasr 0 Al Ahli 1
Ahli: Lima 25’
Red cards: Masoud Sulaiman (Al Nasr), Abdulaziz Haikal (Al Ahli)
STORY OF MATCH
DUBAI // Billed as a clash of the reigning UAE champions and potential successors, Al Ahli emerged from the 2016/17 Arabian Gulf League’s first Dubai derby with another endorsement of their credentials.
They did not have it all their own way at Al Maktoum Stadium on Thursday night, though, when a tightly contested affair was settled by Rodrigo Lima’s first-half strike. With it, Ahli sealed a second successive victory of the nascent campaign, rising to six points from a possible six. Already, their title defence promises much.
The win represented a modicum of revenge, too, for Nasr had seized bragging rights earlier this month in the Arabian Gulf Cup, defeating their illustrious neighbours by the same scoreline, on the same ground.
Their second meeting would be less rewarding, with the hosts second best for much of the encounter, an encounter that concluded with both sides sporting one less man on the pitch.
The game’s decisive moment came on 25 minutes, when Lima opened the scoring and his account for the season by applying the finishing touch to Ahmed Khalil’s pinpoint centre after Everton Ribeiro’s cultured release. Having registered 11 goals in his first 11 league appearances last season before injury curtailed his campaign, the Brazilian is off and running again.
Nasr’s night grew even more difficult in the 67th minute, once defender Masoud Sulaiman was given a second yellow card for bringing down Khalil on the edge of the penalty area. Ahli called for a spot kick to be awarded, but the referee had ruled correctly. From the resultant free kick, Khalil grazed the crossbar.
That was to be the UAE striker’s final contribution as he was withdrawn and replaced by Asamoah Gyan. Ahli would end the match with another man heading off early, after full-back Abdulaziz Haikal collected a second booking for a foul on Jires Kembo Ekoko. It mattered little, for Ahli saw out the game. Their 100 per cent record sustained.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Walid Hussein – The relatively inexperienced midfielder is making the most of his inclusion in the starting line-up this season. He patrolled the centre of the pitch well in the absence of Khamis Esmail and Majed Hassan. A mature performance.
WHAT THE MANAGERS SAID
Ivan Jovanovic, Nasr: “After the first two games we’re not at the level we were in our first official match against El Jaish in the Asian Champions League in Qatar. As usual, in games between us and Al Ahli it is just decided by the small details. Of course, with what happened in the Champions League the past two weeks have not been a pleasant situation for us, and we have lost the enthusiasm we had before.”
Cosmin Olaroiu, Ahli: “It was a very important three points to take and we got them from our sacrifice on the pitch. We expected a difficult game as Al Nasr are very strong. We controlled the first half and didn’t give them a chance but in the second we pulled back and relaxed too much after the red card. Good luck to my players who now go on national team duty – now we concentrate on the Arabian Gulf Cup.”
THE NATIONAL VERDICT
In a hard-fought match, Ahli’s superior talent told. The champions made the more clear-cut chances, while they never really let Nasr in at the other end. Another three points, another clean sheet, and with players to regain fitness and those injured to come back. Ominous.
Last year’s AGL runners-up scored an emphatic win at home to Emirates club, running out 5-2 winners at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.
Zlatko Dalic’s side raced into a 3-0 lead inside the opening 24 minutes, thanks to two goals in two minutes from Brazilian striker Douglas followed by a Caio effort another two minutes after.
Sebastian Sacha scored his first of the evening for the visitors on 29 minutes but Douglas completed his hat-trick 11 minutes after the restart and Danili Asprilla got Al Ain’s fifth just before the hour-mark. Sacha scored his second to give the scoreline a more respectable look on the stroke of full time.
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE
Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/TheNationalSport
Published: September 22, 2016 04:00 AM