Al Jazira 2 Al Ain 1
Al Jazira Abdulla 63', Qasem 77'
Al Ain Gyan 43'
Man of the match Shin Hyung-min (Al Jazira)
ABU DHABI // Abdelaziz Barrada certainly lived up his manager Walter Zenga’s pre-match billing.
The France-born Moroccan international set up both goals from which Juma Abdulla and substitute Abdulla Qasem scored as Al Jazira came back from a goal down to clinch a 2-1 derby win over Al Ain on Friday night at the Mohammed bin Zayed stadium.
Asamoah Gyan had put the visitors ahead shortly before the break but that was all they could do as Jazira, following the introduction of two substitutes just after half time, came back strongly to record their third successive league victory.
Zenga had singled out Barrada as Jazira’s most likely match winner in his pre-match press conference on Wednesday.
“To praise a player for the sake of praising is not my habit,” Zenga said when asked about Barrada’s performance.
“I spoke highly of him because he was with me at the pre-match conference but the player knows if I was being honest or not. The most important thing is the good relationship between the player and coach.
“I am not only proud of him but all my players. They only need to believe in themselves and they can deliver. Tonight they didn’t lose the trust and worked hard until the end of the victory.
“It was a very nice game. Al Ain scored from a mistake but otherwise we had a good first half and a better second half.”
Zenga replaced Ahmed Al Ghilani and Yasir Matar with Abdulla Qasem and Ali Mabkhout in the 52nd and 55th minutes and it paid off for him.
“Sometimes it works and it worked perfectly for us on the night,” the Italian said. “A player can make a difference even when he’s on the pitch for five minutes. On this occasion, it worked for us.”
Abdulla rose above a pack of defenders to head home a Barrada corner on 63 minutes to make the score 1-1.
Jazira’s comeback was complete when Qasem fired home a low shot after Barrada had split the Al Ain defence with a neat through pass.
Gyan had put the visitors ahead two minutes before the break. He was quick to pounce on a loose ball that bounced off the Jazira defender Ali Al Ameri’s head, as he and the goalkeeper Ali Kasheif, both went for the high ball floated in by Omar Abdulrahman.
Al Ain also suffered an early blow when Michel Bastos, the Brazilian winger, was forced to leave the pitch having hurt his left hand in a collision with Matar in the 21st minute. Mohammed Salem came in for him.
“His exit made no difference because his replacement did a good job,” Quique Sanchez Flores, the Al Ain coach, said.
“We played a little bit down in the second half. Jazira scored from a set piece and [got] a winner off a long ball while we couldn’t score from the several chances we created, particularly in the first half.
“It is sad because we are returning with no points after playing a good game. I am satisfied with the performance of the team and obviously not the result.”