Ibrahim saves the day for Sharjah

Marcelo Oliveira’s injury-time header helped the hosts ride their luck through a drab encounter after their goalkeeper saved a penalty in the 51st minute.

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SHARJAH // Marcelo "Marcelinho" Oliveira's injury-time header, the Brazilian's fifth goal in four Pro League games, handed lacklustre Sharjah a scarcely deserved 1-0 victory over struggling Dubai at Sharjah Stadium last night. The hosts, sitting mid-table before kick-off, rode their luck throughout a drab and dreary encounter, no more so than when home goalkeeper Mahmoud Saeed Ibrahim saved Mohammed Ali's well-struck penalty in the 51st minute.

"That was an important win in a very difficult game," Manuel Cajuda, Sharjah's Portuguese coach said afterwards. Sharjah, however, made the game difficult for themselves. After conceding nine goals in their opening three Pro League encounters, it was abundantly clear which end of the pitch Ayman al Ramadi, Dubai's Egyptian coach, had made his priority. With Sharjah's powerful Marcelinho menacing as a lone frontman and compatriot Robert Luciano Brito starting wide-left in a flexible 4-5-1 formation, the home side began strongly.

Possession did not yield goals though, and apart from Marcelinho's acrobatic overhead effort in the fourth minute, Sharjah had little to show for their patient, ineffective pressing at the break. Under a dusty, orange full moon, Dubai's limited challenge effectively ended when Michael N'dri, the energetic French striker, was withdrawn midway through the second half with a thigh injury. It was N'dri who had carried the ball into the box and been taken down - the referee saw it that way, anyway - to set up Ali's penalty attempt. He should probably have taken the spot-kick.

Just as a stalemate seemed inevitable, Marcelinho's late stooping header - from Abdulaziz Sangour's pinpoint delivery - condemned the visitors to their fourth defeat in as many matches since being promoted from Division One. emegson@thenational.ae