Eric Gerets has not given up hope of Al Jazira catching Al Ain after they bounced back from their midweek defeat to the Arabian Gulf League leaders to beat champions Al Ahli.
Goals from Mirko Vucinic and an Ali Mabkhout penalty gave Jazira the win at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium to cut Al Ain’s lead to three points.
Gerets said: “I can say it wasn’t perfect for Jazira, but they showed enough fighting spirit in the second half to win the three points.
“We did nothing correct in the first half. We gave too much space away, there was no construction from behind and there was no rhythm. But ... let’s say we are happy with the three points.”
Ali Kasheif, back in goal for Jazira after more than two-and-a-half months out of the team as part of his national military service, looked as if he had never been away.
Untested in the opening 45 minutes, he made an excellent save to his right to deny Ahmed Khalil from the penalty spot six minutes into the second half.
Gerets could not hide his admiration for his returning goalkeeper. “He arrived late because he has to do his job in the morning and travel all the way from Fujairah, which is a three-hour drive,” the Belgian said.
“He slept for one hour and I asked him if he was ready to play and he said he had no problems. I am happy for him, not because he saved a penalty, but my captain is back. He has much respect from the players and a lot of respect from me.”
Ismail Al Hammadi had earned the penalty when he went down under a challenge from Abdulla Mousa, but Khalil’s effort was well saved by Kasheif.
Ahli were made to pay for Khalil’s miss when Vucinic controlled a pass from Jonathan Pitriopa and the Montenegro international fired home his 21st goal in 19 league games.
Mabkhout made the game safe with a successful spot kick after Abdullah Mousa was brought down by Eisa Ahmed.
Jazira ended the match with 10 players as Basheer Saeed, the centre-back, was sent off four minutes from time for a second bookable offence.
Ali Kasheif — the Jazira keeper didn’t show any rustiness when returning to action from a lengthy absence.
Ahmed Khalil — seemed he had left his shooting boots behind, fluffing a spot kick to let Jazira off the hook.
The spot kick from which Ahli failed to take the lead was the turning point of the game.
Al Jazira’s Rating 6/10
Their defence played a vital role to keep the Ahli attack on check in the first half and then the forwards moved into action to deliver it for them in the second period.
Al Ahli’s Rating 5/10
They showed a lot of promise early in the game but failed to create more scoring opportunities and after failing to score from a penalty the pressure got over them.
The National’s Verdict
Jazira have a tough task in catching up with Al Ain but they can still keep pegging at them to carry their slim hopes after a moral boosting victory over champions Ahli.
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