Al Ain fought back from a goal down – as well as recovering from a humiliating and historic 4-0 hammering at home against Ajman last time out – to spoil the Sharjah title party.
A 2-1 win was in the offing and would have been significant, a maiden black mark on the King’s previously unbeaten 2018/19 calendar, but Sharjah struck late to preserve their unbeaten Arabian Gulf League campaign.
Abdulaziz Al Anbari’s side remain nine points clear at the top, with the result a shot in the arm for a Boss side who looked completely shot in their galling defeat on Saturday.
Igor Coronado’s rocket of a free-kick gifted the hosts a fortunate lead but the Boss’ Jamal Maroof – an ex-Sharjah employer – fired his side level and also won the penalty from which Tsukasa Shiotani put them in front. Welliton atoned for his concession of the penalty to level minutes from the end.
With such a pivotal role played against his old team, we take a closer look at the performance of hard-working Maroof:
GOT RIGHT – PENALTY BOX PREDATOR
For a forward not exactly known for his goalscoring prowess, Maroof showed plenty of attacking magic against his former side – in the thick of all the main action.
He latched onto Bandar Al Ahbabi’s intelligent threaded pass and lashed home a clever first-time finish to flummox Sharjah stopper Adel Al Hosani and draw Al Ain level in the 35th minute
He was only denied a second goal by a stunning Al Hosani save just after the hour mark when he met Al Ahbabi’s clever cross with his head at the back post. He was then also pivotal in the incident from which the Boss did take a 2-1 lead.
At first his fall felt theatrical, but replays showed Sharjah striker Welliton’s attempt to clear was wild as he caught Maroof, who tumbled.
GOT WRONG – DECISION MAKING
You have to admire a player who, while limited, excels just because he does the simple things so well – running, tackling, passing to more gifted team-mates. It is simple traits such as these that so many footballers today undervalue.
But while Maroof’s boundless energy and limitless work ethic are admirable qualities, it means he often gets caught out of position chasing lost or needless causes – a case in point was his booking for tracking Majed Surour so closely that he felt the urge to tug him back, which gave Sharjah attacking impetus.
After two fruitless years at Sharjah, you could forgive Maroof for feeling more than a little miffed that he jumped ship at the wrong time in the summer – although how was he to know that the King were about to embark on a royally impressive campaign?
He’s never been the most prolific of finishers – his highest season’s tally stands at three, for Emirates Club, in 2013/14. That’s pretty woeful for a forward. But while he only sporadically delivers in front of goal, what is always guaranteed is graft and grit.
There was also plenty of guile here as his finish was both instinctive and clinical – while his energy and tireless work-rate posed constant problems for his former side.
35th min: Rayan Yaslam rides a challenge and feeds Al Ahbabi. He sees the run of Maroof and threads an inch-perfect pass into his pass and he shoots first time through the legs of Al Hosani.
65th min: Al Ahbabi intelligently stands up a cross to Maroof at the back post. Only a sensational Al Hosani save prevents the forward from nodding in his second.
68th min: Controversial moment as Maroof drops to the floor in the box. Replays suggest Welliton’s challenge was more than a little robust – even if Maroof’s tumble was theatrical. VAR is consulted and the penalty is given. Shiotani smashes home the spot kick with his weaker right foot.
78th min: Maroof chases down Surour and earns a yellow for tugging him back.
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