A break has done Al Ain the world of good. Fresh from the international interruption, the Boss put in their best performance in 2016 to dominate Al Ahli Jeddah and take a significant step towards repairing their AFC Champions League dream.
Not even an injury-time goal from forward Saleh Al Amri could unsettle them on Tuesday night, in a match
decided by Brazilian centre forward Douglas’ well-taken double.
Winnable games await against Uzbekistan’s Nasaf to close out the action in Group D. Perform to the standard expected of the Arabian Gulf League holders and a round-of-16 spot is theirs.
The opening defeats to Qatar’s El Jaish which threatened a top-two finish are now an increasingly distant memory. So is the way they limped into the recent stoppage domestically, performing below par to fall a point behind Al Ahli in the race for the top-flight crown.
UAE playmaker Omar Abdulrahman’s inspired free-kick was the only thing which separated yesterday’s opponents during March 16’s tense previous meeting. The gap was much more substantial this time at King Abdullah Sports City against a side who rested up to seven usual starters as they concentrate on landing a first Saudi Professional League title in 32 years.
Veteran centre-back Ismail Ahmed put in a colossal display to shut out Syria star Omar Al Somah. Flying winger Danilo Asprilla unsettled off the bench, while ‘Amoory’ and Douglas were constant threats.
The latter-mentioned winter buy showcased why he had been second top scorer in the 2015 J1 League in the 25th minute. A counter saw UAE right-back Mohamed Ahmed swing in a perfect centre which he powerfully glanced home.
A pair of free-kicks from countryman Fellipe Bastos threatened and Asprilla came on in the second half to strike the base of the post. The game was then settled when the latter burst clear and centred for Douglas to smash in his 12th goal in 12 games.
The hosts roused themselves late on to see Al Amri place into the top corner. No sting in the tail followed for visitors whose continental aspirations have been transformed.
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