Blessed relief for Al Jazira. Okay, so it may only be the Arabian Gulf Cup – UAE football’s third most important competition – but three points of any kind are welcome at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium right now.
Just a second win in five games in all competitions this season was secured against the old enemy of Al Ain last night – the returning Romarinho back from his dalliance with Doha airport officials to set up Salem Al Eedi’s winner.
It was the Pride of Abu Dhabi’s first win since the opening day of the Arabian Gulf League season 22 days ago and both the result and performance restored a bit of pride that has certainly been missing in the early weeks of the campaign.
Henk ten Cate’s side have looked a shadow of the side that stormed to the league title last term but this victory – despite the competition – should instil confidence going forward.
Jazira’s two-game losing streak was gratefully halted – but they were fortuitously gifted the opening goal. Livewire young forward Ahmed Rabeya had earlier shrugged off UAE stalwart Mohanad Salem before stinging the palms of Mohamed Busanda and then wasted a glorious chance when he slid in to meet Mohamed Fawzi’s inviting centre, only to prod wide.
But the talented 22-year- old profited at the third attempt when he beat Busanda to another quality Fawzi delivery and nodded in – although replays suggested the goal was fortunate to be awarded bythe assistant referee as Mohamed Khalfan appeared to clear before the whole ball crossed the line.
Ismail Ahmed had earlier crashed a header against the Jazira crossbar and Ali Khaseif saved smartly from Yousef Ahmed as the visitors began brightly.
The hosts settled eventually and Ali Mabkhout could have doubled the lead before the break but dragged two shots just wide.
The Boss deservedly dragged themselves level six minutes into the second half. Douglas, much derided last season, enjoyed the sound of the vociferous away support chanting his name after he won his side a penalty. The Brazilian initially miss-controlled the pass into him but doggedly chased down Salem Rashid who swiped at thin air and brought him down after the forward nicked the ball away from him. Compatriot Caio calmly slotted in the spot kick to bring the Boss level.
With the way they’ve been playing in recent weeks, Ten Cate may have worried his Jazira side would withdraw but they pushed on and Mabkhout wasted a counter-attack when he went for goal himself and shot wide when Salem Abdulla was free inside the box.
It mattered little as Romarinho emerged from the bench to instantly impact proceedings. The summer arrival had been detained at Doha’s Hamad International Airport after returning to settle a pay dispute with former employers El Jaish on Tuesday – but he winged in to tee up impressive fellow replacement Salem Al Eedi who prodded into the roof of the net to restore Jazira’s lead.
Khaseif punched clear from Douglas’ header late on as the hosts held on, but Ten Cate’s side were worthy winners as they finally produced a performance akin to something resembling champions.