Sharjah edge past Al Shaab in boring derby

In other Arabian Gulf League matches, Al Ahli beat Ajman in controversial game and Dubai draw with Al Wahda.

Yousuf Saeed, centre, and his Sharjah side beat neughbours Al Shaab on Thursday night’s Arabian Gulf League derby. Satish Kumar / The National
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SHARJAH // The Sharjah derby failed to live up to expectations.

Football fans in the emirate had waited four years for this moment, the renewal of the league rivalry between Sharjah and Al Shaab, and they were out in huge numbers to support their side. Virtually every seat in the 20,000-capacity stadium was taken, and the atmosphere and occasion should have roused the players to step up their game.

Unfortunately for the fans, it did not. Spectators at the Bur Dubai derby between Al Nasr and Al Wasl had witnessed seven goals (Nasr won 6-1), but on Thursday night only one was scored – by Kim Jung-woo, for Sharjah, and that only after Shaab had been reduced to 10 men, in the 69th minute, following Essa Ali’s second booking.

The game never really looked like a derby. It was more of a hit-and-miss kind that you see on neighbourhood grounds. The proceedings, perhaps, reflected the state of the two teams, who were once the pride of the nation.

Sharjah, just back from Division One, are not among the more cavalier teams of the Arabian Gulf League. On an eight-match unbeaten streak, they had four draws and three goals from five games before Thursday night; in 12 league matches, they have scored 12.

Shaab, on the other hand, are struggling for survival in the AGL. They narrowly managed to stay afloat last season after returning to the top division for the first time since 2008/09, and they face an uphill battle this time as well with only seven points from 12 matches.

Zeljko Petrovic, who will take over the reins of the Shaab team from the 14th round, must be making a long shopping list for the January transfer window after watching this game. Known as the “Commandos” in UAE football parlance, Shaab barely put up a fight.

Shaab had asked for half the tickets to the match, but received far less. The home fans were still trooping in when Yousuf Saeed stopped them in their tracks, in the 18th minute, with a shot that bounced off a defender and sailed over for a corner.

By that stage, Sharjah were in control of the game and possession; the Shaab players were chasing shadows and, at times, arguing among themselves.

The visitors lacked cohesion and it was a surprise then Sharjah took so long to put the ball into the back of the net. They had their opportunities, but were missing the final touch.

Thankfully for their fans, though, the hosts were finally on target – six minutes after Shaab’s Essa Ali, the former Wasl captain, was booked for the second time in a few minutes and sent off.

With the Sharjah strike force unable to break through, the South Korean Kim decided to take matters into his own hands and cannoned the ball home from close to 35 yards, leaving the Shaab goalkeeper Mutaz Abdullah stranded.

That goal was the high point of the game. The Sharjah fans, however, were not complaining and a huge cheer erupted in the stands when the referee blew his final whistle.

It was not entertaining, but a win is all that counts in the end.

Other results

Ajman 1 Al Ahli 2

Al Ahli went seven points clear at the top of the Arabian Gulf League on Thursday night in controversial circumstances after an injury-time penalty that resulted in the referee being struck by a spectator.

With their game away to Ajman locked at 1-1 and moving into the sixth minute of injury time, the referee Hamad Al Shaikh Hashmi awarded a spot-kick to Ahli after Ahmed Khalil tumbled under minimal contact in the area.

Ajman’s players were incensed, particularly as moments earlier they had a penalty claim of their own when Boris Kabi was tackled strongly in the box.

With the suspended coach Cosmin Olaroiu watching on from the stands, Ciel, the Brazilian forward, held his nerve to convert the penalty to give Ahli all three points.

Several individuals near the Ajman dugout confronted Hashmi and the referee was struck a glancing blow on the head, though it was unclear whether the assailant was an Ajman fan or an official. He was led away by police, who also escorted the officials from the field of play.

Kabi had given Ajman the lead 14 minutes in after a headed back pass from Walid Abbas fell short of the goalkeeper Saif Yousef. Kabi took the ball past the stopper and slotted home.

However, Luis Jimenez, the Chilean midfielder, levelled just before half time after breaking the offside trap and heading home.

It looked like Ahli would drop points for only the fourth time this season until the late drama.

Dubai 1 Al Wahda 1

There was also a major incident in the 1-1 draw between Dubai and Al Wahda. Trailing 1-0 after a 41st-minute Dramane Traore penalty, Wahda’s centre-back Hamdan Al Kamali played the ball back to Dubai’s keeper after an injury stoppage.

However, the Wahda forward Sebastian Tagliabue appeared to misread the situation, took control of the ball and scored as the Dubai defence stood still. The home side protested but the goal stood and Wahda took home a point.