RIYADH: Al-Ain’s troubled season on Monday hit a new low after a 1-1 draw with Al-Ittihad Kalba left the club sixth in the UAE’s Arabian Gulf League (AGL) and officially unable to qualify for the 2022 AFC Champions League.
The UAE side, who won Asia’s premier club competition in 2003, currently have 38 points, seven points behind Sharjah in third – the last qualifying spot – with only two matches remaining.
There was no change at the top of the AGL table with leaders Al-Jazira involved in a dramatic 3-3 draw with Ajman, while second place Baniyas played out a stalemate with Shabab Al-Ahli, who had just completed a grueling and unsuccessful AFC Champions League group stage campaign.
Sharjah beat Hatta 3-0, but only Al-Jazira on 51 points and Baniyas on 50 remain in the title race.
For Al-Ain, however, this has been a poor season.
Things had stated positively for the garden city team when Kodjo Laba scored from close range after only 18 minutes, but the lead did not last long and Al-Ittihad Kalba’s captain Bennel Malaba equalized just after the half hour from the penalty spot.
Elsewhere, Al-Nasr stayed very much in the hunt for third spot with a crucial 3-2 home win over Al-Dhafra thanks to a stoppage-time penalty from Sebastian Tagliabue.
Al-Nasr had taken a 2-0 first-half lead through Toze’s double – a 31st-minute spot-kick and a shot from outside the penalty area that took a massive deflection just before the break.
Al-Dhafra responded late in the second half, first with Senegalese Makhete Diop heading past Al-Nasr goalkeeper Ahmed Champe on 74 minutes, and five minutes later through Mohamed Ismail Al-Junaibi’s equalizer, after he controlled a long pass on his chest and struck firmly into the roof of the net.
Then came the dramatic finale, with Essam Al-Adoua red-carded for handball and Tagliabue’s 96th-minute winner.
Al-Nasr now sit on 45 points in fourth place, behind Sharjah on goal difference, while Al-Dhafra stay in 11th place on 21 points.