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UAE Pro League
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Matchweek 18 roundup: Al Jazira replace Sharjah at the top

Al Jazira replaced Sharjah at the top of the standings and Shabab Al Ahli edged closer to the top four in matchweek 18 of the Arabian Gulf League, which coincided with the UAE Pro League’s celebration of Kuwait’s National Day.


Al Jazira earned a valuable 3-0 away win over Sharjah in the most anticipated game of the week and a match that further heated up the title race. Mohamed Rabie’s goal and a brace from Ali Mabkhout avenged Al Jazira’s defeat to Sharjah in the first half of the season and handed them the win despite playing with 10 men after Abdallah Ramadan was sent off in the 61st minute. The win put the Pride of Abu Dhabi at the top of the standings, three points clear of Sharjah who dropped to second place on 37 points, with six matchweeks to go. This is the first time that Sharjah fail to find the back of the net at home this season. On the other hand, Mabkhout ended his 465-game goal drought against Sharjah and maintained his recent impressive performances as he scored half of his side’s past 20 goals in the league.


Bani Yas closed on the gap with Sharjah to one point only after scoring a goal in each half to earn an easy 2-0 win over Ajman at home. Ahmed Abunamous broke the deadlock in the 23rd minute and Joao Pedro scored from the spot to seal a 2-0 win for Bani Yas deep into injury time. In between those two goals, Ajman missed a number of chances to make a comeback and were dealt a blow when Mohamed Ismail was sent off seven minutes from time. The Oranges’ defeat left them in 13th place on nine points, as they failed to escape the relegation zone and remained one point below Fujairah.


Al Nasr waited late to seal the three points against Bottom-placed Hatta at Al Maktoum Stadium. The hosts didn’t break the deadlock until the 85th minute, thanks to a goal from Jassim Al Balooshi, while Ryan Mendes scored deep into injury time to secure the victory, which left them in fourth place on 33 points. Hatta suffered their 15th defeat of the season as they continue to linger at the bottom on five points.


Shabab Al Ahli edged closer to the top four as they climbed to fifth place on 32 points after beating Khorfakkan 4-3 in a thrilling clash at Rashid Stadium. The home side blew their lead twice after Omar Juma’s brace cancelled out goals from Mohamed Marzooq and Youssef Jaber. Paulo Melo then handed Khorfakkan a 3-2 advantage, before Yahya AlGhassani and Carlos Eduardo netted late to secure the three points, leaving Khorfakkan in 11th place with 15 points after suffering their fifth defeat in a row. Shabab Al Ahli made a late comeback for the second match in a row and Carlos Eduardo maintained his fine performances as he has been involved in seven goals in his side’s last seven matches (6 goals – 1 assist).


Al Ain dropped to sixth place on 30 points after falling to a 2-1 defeat to Al Dhafra at Hamdan Bin Zayed Stadium. Makhete Diop netted a goal in each half, while Laba Kodjo scored from the spot on the 50th-minute mark. Al Dhafra ended their seven-game winless streak as they reached the 20-point mark and remained in 10th place.


Al Wahda and Al Wasl are tied on 28 points in seventh and eighth places, respectively, after playing out a 2-2 draw at Zabeel Stadium. Myung-joo Lee netted three minutes before the break to cancel out Fabio Lima’s opener. Al Wahda were reduced to 10 men when Ruben Amaral was sent off in the 74th minute and Fabio Lima regain Al Wasl’s lead from the spot. Omar Khribin leveled things out five minutes later, netting his fourth goal in three league games with the Clarets.


In-from Peniel Mlapa guided Ittihad Kalba to a 3-0 away victory over Fujairah, putting them in ninth on 26 points. The Togolese forward converted from the spot just before the halftime whistle and Mohamed Sabeel doubled their lead in the early minutes of the second half before Mlapa scored the third just three minutes from time, which marked his fifth goal in four matches in February. Fujairah are on verge of dropping into the relegation zone as they are 12th on 10 points, one point only above Ajman.


Mabkhout’s brace against Sharjah saw him maintain his position at the top of the goalscoring charts with 17 goals, one above Al Wasl’s Peniel Mlapa and four more than Bani Yas’ Joao Pedro.

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