Juma fires last-gasp winner for Al Ain
KEEN TUSSLE: Sharjah's Igor Coronado (left) and Omar Ahmed of Khor Fakkan battle for possession in their Arabian Gulf League match on Thursday night. - AGL
Dubai - The Boss nick a 3-2 victory, while defending champions Sharjah are off to a winning start
Record Arabian Gulf League champions Al Ain huffed and puffed before seeing the back of a dogged and valiant Ittihad Kalba 3-2 in their opening fixture on Friday night.
'The Boss,' who won the last of their 13 titles in 2018, had gone ahead twice through Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba and Jamal Maroof. But Togolese international Peniel Mlapa came to the rescue for 'The Tigers' with a brace.
But deep into the five minutes of stoppage time that spilled over to seven minutes, an unmarked Saeed Juma fired the last gasp winner, at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.
Elsewhere, in the pristine hills of Fujairah, the hosts shocked Al Wahda by a solitary goal at the Fujairah Stadium. Abdullah Saleh scored the match winner seven minutes from time.
Earlier, late on Thursday night, Sharjah got their title defence off to a winning start by blanking promoted side Khor Fakkan at the Sharjah Stadium.
Ryan Mendes put 'The King' ahead on 18 minutes and Ricardo Gomes rounded it off with the second on 68 minutes.
Meanwhile, Bani Yas fought hard to hold Ajman to a 2-2 stalemate at the Bani Yas Stadium in Al Shamkha. The visitors headed into the half-time break with a one goal lead after William Owusu scored on 43 minutes. But Fawaz Awana cancelled that out on 73 minutes.
Owusu helped Ajman retake the lead again on 82 minutes but Ayanda Patosi got the leveler in the very next minute.
Elsewhere, Shabab Al Ahli put aside the disappointment of the Arabian Gulf Super Cup defeat with a clinical 3-0 victory over promoted club Hatta. Yousef Jaber, Mohamed Juma and Leonardo were on the scoresheet on five, 55 and 73 minutes respectively.
And in another early kick-off, Al Jazira saw off 10-man Al Dhafra 2-0 at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium. Mohammed Al Attas scored on 43 minutes while Marcos Keno added the second in the third minute of time added on.
The Western Knights were down to 10 men from 67 minutes after Sultan Al Suwaidi was sent off following a second booking.
Al Ain were up and running with the impressive Laba getting on the scoresheet on eight minutes. But the lead didn't last too long as Mlapa nullified that on 19 minutes.
The garden city club retook the lead on 54 minutes with Maroof tapping it home from close range after playing on following a clever chip from Laba.
They almost swelled that lead four minutes later when Abderrahmane Meziane took a swipe. But goalkeeper Yousif Abdulla made a fine save.
Kalba hit the counter with a minute to go for the hour with Mlapa darting in with Ismail Ahmed and Tsukasa Shiotani in tow. But shot stopper Khalid Eisa rushed out and averted the danger.
At the other end, Ismail Ahmed saw his header lob and almost make its way in before Abdulla tipped it over the cross bar. Shiotani then took a crack but blazed his shot over the woodwork, while Laba too hit wide of the post.
Kalba were back in the game after an unmarked Mlapa took a touch and fired it into the roof of the net following a pass from Yasen Al Bakheet.
Al Bakheet nearly gave them the lead after captain Balazs Dzsudzsak sent a neat cross field pass. But Eisa thwarted it after the Al Ain defence was caught napping.
There were a flurry of attacks either side and a stalemate looked a possibility as the clock ticked down. But Juma fired it home from the edge of the box to give Al Ain full points.