Al Dhafra will hope the rest of an often-trying campaign is this easy.
The Western Knights dominated the battle to reach mid-table safety at Sharjah, a brace from excellent Syria forward Omar Khrbin the least they deserved in a 2-0 win.
Relegation seemed a dismal and distinct possibility at the start of February. The timing from countryman Mohammed Kwid’s side has since been impeccable, a run of four wins from five matches in the Arabian Gulf League meaning it is Friday night’s opponents who are looking over their shoulders once more.
The King failed to live up to their nickname at Sharjah Stadium. Not even the absence of lethal visiting striker Makhete Diop through suspension helped them.
A buffer remains with a quartet of games left. But they stumbled through the “step towards safety” demanded by boss Abdulaziz Al Anbari before the match.
A warning of what was to come came in just the second minute, Khrbin narrowly sidefooting a decent opportunity wide.
This was just a range finder for the winter arrival from Al Wahda SC Damascus. The man with seven goals in the AFC qualifying process for World Cup 2018 lashed superbly into the bottom-right corner from 30 yards, drawing a broad smile from the watching Diop in the deserted stands.
There was no reaction from Sharjah, who were on a four-match undefeated streak in all competitions before the month-long international break.
Dhafra midfielder Adel Hermach and team-mate Khrbin should have scored from headers just before the break. An outstanding sixth goal in eight top-flight games then followed on 55 minutes for the latter, UAE forward Ahmed Ali’s incisive run allowing him to place another low effort past despairing goalkeeper Rashid Ahmed.
Under the watch of astute mid-season re-appointment Kwid, a key match was then closed out. He will demand such assuredness from his troops becomes the norm in the final rounds.
Sharjah boss Abdulaziz Al Anbari has challenged his players to take a “step towards safety” against Al Dhafra when the Arabian Gulf League resumes on Friday.
The top-flight has been on a month-long hiatus because of the international break. This weekend sees the clubs head onto the finishing straight with round 22 of 26.
At Sharjah Stadium, a victory for either struggling side would see a significant gap open up to the relegation places. Al Anbari is hopeful his charges will prevail.
He said: “We are optimistic about the next phase. We begin with another important game. “We seek to provide a good level in the next matches and a positive result against Al Dhafra will be a step towards safety.”
Another key game on Friday sees Eid Baroot take charge of Fujairah for the first time in the derby against Dibba Al Fujairah.
The Emirati’s side are three points from safety in 13th. Meanwhile, versatile defender Hazza Salem has declared Al Wasl have five “cup finals” ahead of them to secure AFC Champions League football.
The Cheetahs occupy the third-and-final qualification spot ahead of the trip to Bani Yas, who have Dr Abdullah Misfer making his debut in the dugout after the dismissal of Luis Garcia.
“Bani Yas have a new coach,” said Salem, 26. “We don’t know which players he’ll start with as they are tough team.
“We have to play the upcoming five matches like cup finals. We need three points in each one to reach the AFC Champions League.”
Al Ahli are expected to discover the fate of an appeal made to sport’s highest legal body today as they attempt to overturn their disqualification from Friday’s Arabian Gulf Cup final.
The Red Knights have put a case forward to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) as they continue to dispute the UAE Football Association’s decision that new signing Khamis Esmail was ineligible for their 3-2 semi-final victory against Al Shabab.
An appeal by Al Ahli to the UAE FA disciplinary committee was rejected last week.
UAE FA decided to award a 3-0 loss to the Hawks as punishment, who are currently set to face Al Wahda at Al Maktoum Stadium.
A reversal from the Switzerland-based quasi-judicial body would throw the season’s first major showpiece into disrepute, causing a scheduling crisis in the UAE ahead of the resumption of competitive action after the international break.
The furore had centred around restrospectively-cited issues related to the documentation produced to complete Esmail’s Dh60 million switch from fellow giants Al Jazira.
The UAE defensive midfielder came on as an 84th-minute substitute in January 19’s last-four tie, less than 24 hours after the move had been rubberstamped by the UAE FA.
Problems then arose in the aftermath, with Shabab insisting certain documents were missing.