Dubai: New Al Ain signing Hassan Al Shahat came off the bench to score on his debut, sending the Boss top of the league with a 3-1 win away to title rivals Al Wasl on Friday.
Al Wasl had been level on points with Al Ain but clear on goal difference at the top of the league heading into the top-two clash.
However, Esmail Ahmad opened for Al Ain before the half hour to send the visitors into the break 1-0 up albeit down to 10 men after defender Mohannad Salem was shown a straight red on 45 minutes for pulling Fabio Lima.
Despite being a man down, Al Ain added more goals in the second half with Omar Abdul Rahman — playing in his first game since missing two penalties for the UAE in last Friday’s Gulf Cup final defeat to Oman — netting the second on 71 minutes.
Debutant Al Shahat, who had joined midweek from Egypt’s Misr Lel Makkasa, then got the third on 78 minutes, just four minutes after coming on for Marcus Berg.
Al Wasl too were reduced to ten men on 87 minutes when Ronaldo Mendes had to walk off for a second bookable offence as frustrations mounted. The home side did eventually got a consolation goal on 94 minutes from Caio Correa.
Al Ain coach Zoran Mamic said: “We succeeded thanks to the high spirit and desire shown by the team to return us to the top. All players deserve praise and compliments.
“Hussain entered the group with the desired image, but we’ll need all elements in the group for future challenges, both local and international.
“It’s too early to talk about the title with ten rounds left until the end but players will be given good motivation to continue to deliver strong results and maintain their position at the top. We have to be more focused for that and deal with each game separately.”
The woes continued for Al Wasl who dropped down to third as third-placed Al Wahda leapfrogged them after beating Dibba 3-1 away on Friday.
Rodolfo Bardella scored on his debut for Dibba on the half-hour but Al Wahda replied with a penalty after the hour from Balazs Dzsudzsak followed by goals from Mohammad Al Akbari and Sebastian Tagliabue on 78 and 80 minutes.
In Friday’s only other game, defending champions Al Jazira were held to a 1-1 draw away to Ajman, with Ahmad Al Attas cancelling out Rashid Malullah’s 56th minute opener on 72 minutes.