Jazira defeat confirms Al Ain as AGL champions

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Action from Bani Yas' impressive 4-2 victory over Al Jazira in Abu Dhabi.

This was a most disheartening way to end the Arabian Gulf League title chase. Al Jazira were abysmal during a home loss to Bani Yas that handed Al Ain a third triumph in four seasons.

The trophy is a thoroughly-deserved one for the Boss, a side much more stable than their erratic challengers. Zlatko Dalic’s men can rejoice now they are 10 points clear, a once-promising battle fading into oblivion with a trio of fixtures still remaining.

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A limp second Abu Dhabi derby loss in a row befell second-placed Jazira, who failed to lift themselves when most necessary. 

When 24-goal leading marksman Mirko Vucinic and Jonathan Pitroipa struck at the death, both efforts were met with requisite indifference – a rousing comeback was never on the cards.

The hosts were defensively abject, throwing in the towel from the start against opponents with confidence at rock bottom following a seven-match winless run.

Coach Eric Gerets watched perturbed and uncharacteristically-defeated, leaning on the dugout for support not provided by his off-colour players. 

“We must go until the bottle is empty,” Gerets said. “But I know it is empty already.

No way through: Al Jazira’s (r) title ambitions were put to rest on Friday night.

“Even after 3-0, we had chances to score a goal. It is not nice for everybody at Al Jazira, but that is life.

“We are on the ground knocked out, but we will stand up and fight back.”

Much has been invested in opposite number Luis Garcia, Bani Yas showing repeat faith in the Spanish project launched by the former Getafe boss and sports director Jesus Garcia Pitarch. 

Friday was a triumph for both men after several painful weeks.

“The results we have had in the last seven games were really disappointing and this result comes as a relief,” Garcia said. 

The Sky Blues began with purpose. A feint from countryman Joan Verdu brought him far too much space on the right, a low shot creeping inside the near post on 12 minutes for his ninth goal of a productive debut campaign.

The opener was met with indifference from the deserted Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium terraces and on the pitch. Worse was soon to follow, Verdu again at the heart.

A short-corner routine led to a perfect centre being headed into the top corner by leaping defender Mohamed Jaber.

Even Jazira’s usually-foolproof attack misfired. In response, Vucinic saw an effort smothered and 2015 Asian Cup leading marksman Ali Mabkhout chipped into the side-netting.

The runners-up have stuttered during a time when Al Ain’s continuing AFC Champions League participation was meant to swing the balance in their favour. A late rally added gloss against bottom-placed Ittihad Kalba before a lifeless performance saw Al Wahda prevail last Sunday.

The second half provided more goals but no joy for Gerets’ side. Salt was thrown on the wounds by Bandar Al Ahbabi’s dancing effort, his shot going through the legs of the undeserving Khaseif to make it 3-0. Vucinic then swept home from inside the box following good work from playmaker Manuel Lanzini on 80 minutes, but no revival followed. 

Visiting striker Mohamed Nasser was gifted too much room to nutmeg Khaseif – again – for the fourth, Pitroipa sliding in a second for defeated Jazira. 

Gerets and his players disappeared quickly down the tunnel, no grace to be salvaged from an appalling match.

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