Al Ain began their title defence of the Adnoc Pro League with a 1-1 away draw in Ajman on the opening night of the new season at the Rashid bin Saeed Stadium on Friday.
Al Ain didn’t take much time to open their account with their Brazilian midfielder Erik Jorgens picking up the ball inside the area before sending it into the back of the net in the sixth minute.
Ajman were unlucky when Prestige Mboungou’s curling effort from the outside of the area crashed against the crossbar shortly after the break.
However, they didn’t have to wait long to level the scores as their Bahraini forward Ali Madan unleashed a left-footed effort that went under Al Ain goalkeeper Khalid Eisa's outstretched arms net to make it 1-1.
Al Ain thought they had all three points in the bag in the added time after Obaid Mohammed scored off a counter attack started by Waleed Azaro but the goal was cancelled after the VAR review.
The visitors were awarded a penalty but Kodjo Laba’s spot kick was well saved by Ali Al Hosani to deny the champions a winning start.
The Al Ain manager Serhiy Rebrov blamed the harsh weather for his team’s under-par performance.
“The problem actually wasn’t the team’s performance but the harsh weather conditions in which all clubs will suffer at the beginning of the season,” the Ukrainian said.
“We lost power and enthusiasm after the first quarter of play, and didn’t see the required level of play from my players as the game progressed. I would have preferred a delayed start of the league.”
Promoted Al Bataeh made a dream start in the top flight with an away victory over Kalba, ten-man Baniyas defeated Khor Fakkan 1-0 at home while Al Wahda shared a point with Al Wasl at the Zabeel Stadium in the other games on the night.
Brazilian forward Lourency Do struck on seven minutes for Bataeh and their Portuguese midfielder Joao Pedro sealed the game deep into injury time after fluffing a spot kick a few minutes earlier.