Champions Al Ahli leapt above Al Wasl and Al Ain into second-place in the Arabian Gulf League in a bad-tempered victory against Al Nasr.
A costly error from visiting goalkeeper Abdulla Mohammed gifted three points to the Red Knights, with UAE forward Ahmed Khalil stabbing in what turned out to be the winner 18 minutes from time after reacting quickest to Mohammed’s meek punch.
Referee Ammar Al Jneibi was at the centre of the action as he produced 11 yellow cards, including two to Ahli defender Abdulaziz Haikal who was dismissed in injury time.
Ahli coach Cosmin Olaroiu had some stern words for Al Jneibi both at half time and after the final whistle.
“It is a sad victory,” said the Romanian, who directed his ire at an official he blamed for his side’s 2-1 President’s Cup exit to Al Ain last month.
“The referee gave them a goal, it wasn’t a goal. Today we played against the opponent and the referee so this victory was important.
“He also refereed in the President’s Cup game against Al Ain and gave a penalty to Al Ain that wasn’t a penalty. We won today because of the spirit of the players on the field.”
Olaroiu’s compatriot and opposite number Dan Petrescu failed to single out either the referee or his goalkeeper for his horrible blunder.
“I don’t want to say anything about their winner, they didn’t deserve it,” said the former Chelsea defender.
“Like you see, I don’t blame anyone. When you lose you lose as a team. It was a difficult match for us, we know playing in Al Ahli is not easy.”
Ahli playmaker Everton Ribeiro’s opening goal was the first real bit of class in a tempestuous first half, which had been severely lacking in quality but enthralling.
Six Blue Wave players went into Al Jneibi’s book, including Essam Dhahi for a crude hack on Ahli striker Makhete Diop.
Diop himself entered it too after protesting when he felt Masoud Suliman had caught him with an elbow.
His lofted free-kick was missed by everyone, including Mohammed who saw it bounce beyond him and into the far corner.
Before that Abdulaziz Barrada had gone close with a similar effort that Ahli stopper Saif Yousif scrambled over his own crossbar, while Khalil also struck a post with a thunderous free-kick.
The hosts’ lead was wiped out on the stroke of half time though when Nasr striker Wanderley scrambled his side level after Ahli’s defence had failed to clear a cross.
The second half was equally as engaging but mainly for its intensity. The only memorable moment was Mohammed’s flap and Khalil’s poked winner that sent the Red Knights three points behind Al Jazira.