Ahli fight off Baniyas aggression

Al Ahli extend their winning streak to six to consolidate their position on top of the league table, Walter Zenga's opening night spoiled by Dubai and Sharjah double up Al Wahda.

Gilles Yapi-Yapo, second from the right, and his Dubai teammates celebrate after scoring against Al Jazira during an Arabian Gulf League match at the Al Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi. The match ended 2-2. Satish Kumar / The National
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Baniyas 2 Al Ahli 3

Baniyas - Jaber 26, Pereira 68

Ahli - Viana 02, Grafite 45, 72

Man of the match - Grafite (Al Ahli)

SHAMKHA // Baniyas gave Al Ahli another test, but the Dubai side kept their 100 per cent winning record to maintain their six-point lead at the top of the Arabian Gulf League.

“We won the most difficult game up to now,” the Ahli coach Cosmin Olaroiu. “I know Baniyas are strong but tonight they showed more aggressiveness and intent of giving us a harder time.

“I think we played our best game against them. I would like to think they can play at the same level all the time. I can only congratulate my players.

“We are happy of tonight’s result and extending our winning run to six but our work doesn’t end here. We can still play better than we played tonight and that will our objective.”

Grafite, Ahli’s Brazilian striker, scored twice after Hugo Viana, the Portuguese forward, had given the visitors a second-minute lead.

Baniyas twice came back to equalize through Yousef Jaber and Marcelo Pereira, but they could not go level a third time as they suffered their second defeat in four days.

The result last night at the Baniyas stadium took Ahli’s tally to 18 points; the host team remained on eight.

Ahli scored early after a flowing move. They worked down the right flank and Abdulaziz Haikal slipped a pass for Viana to fire it from the edge of the box to the back of the net.

The visitors could have doubled the lead five minutes later had Grafite not been wide in a one-on-one against Mohammed Khalef, the Baniyas goalkeeper.

Baniyas equalized through Jaber. Nawaf Mubarak floated a quick tap from a free kick and the captain, who was returning after missing the last game because of injury, timed his run perfectly to head the ball to the back of the net.

Khalef did well to parry Ismail Al Hammadi’s effort from close range, but the visitors scored off the ensuing corner to regain the lead. On the stroke of half time, Grafite tapped a ball that was hooked back by Walid Abbas from the far post.

Ahli began the second half brightly. Al Hammadi’s bullet was chipped over the bar by Khalef and Haikal’s effort from a difficult angle bounced off the near post.

Pereira was wide at the other end after the Brazilian was set up inside the box. The Ahli keeper Saif Yousuf made an excellent save to deny Carlos Munoz from cancelling Ahli’s lead.

Baniyas were rewarded for their perseverance in attack. Munoz’s effort hit the Ahli wall of defence and Pereira was quick to hammer the loose ball to the back of the net from point-blank range.

Their joy was short-lived, though, as Grafite regained the lead for the second time when he drilled in a pass from Luis Jimenez.

“We made too many mistakes, particularly at the back,” said Jorge Da Silva, the Baniyas coach.

“We conceded a goal when the game was only first only 90 seconds old and the second on the stroke of half time ...

“I don’t blame the defence for the defeat. We lost the game as a team. Of course we need to work on the defence also.”

Al Jazira 2 Dubai 2

Dramane Traore scored at the 66th minute and Gilles Yapi-Yapo added the equaliser at the 75th minute to spoil Walter Zenga’s coming out party as the new Al Jazira coach.

Ricardo Oliveira and Abdelaziz Barrada scored in the first half for Jazira.

Sharjah 2 Al Wahda 1

Ahmed Khamis took advantage of a quick restart to score a stunning and decisive goal and give Sharjah a 2-1 victory over Al Wahda. Mauricio Ramos gave the hosts an early lead, and Khamis doubled it. Wahda pulled one back in the 41st minute through Damian Diaz. Sharjah are second, on 12 points.


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