DUBAI // Diego Maradona said Majed Naser’s sending off after conceding the first goal was the crucial factor as his Al Wasl side failed to convert a 3-1 first-leg lead into a trophy as they lost the return fixture of the GCC Clubs Championship final 5-4 on penalties to Al Muharraq.
Naser, already serving a 17-match domestic ban for slapping Al Ahli coach Quique Sanchez Flores on the back of his head after the Etisalat Cup semi-final defeat in March, was sent off in the 10th minute of last night’s game for butting Ismail Abdul Latif.
His moment of rage came right after Jamal Braro had put the visitors ahead, when the celebrating Muharraq players tried to retreive the ball back from the keeper.
“The red card and the first goal were very important factors,” a disappointed Maradona said after the game. “We had to pull one player out from the midfield and change our tactics. We had a certain plan but this made it very difficult for us to continue and we had to change.”
Wasl had a second man dismissed in the 78th minute with Rashid Essa seeing red. The midfielder butted Rashid Abdulrehman in response to a tackle by the Bahraini. It was an act of petulence as Abdulrehman had already received a yellow card for his offence.
By then, Muharraq had taken a 3-1 lead, levelling the score 4-4 on aggregate. In the deciding shoot-out, Juan Ignacio Mercier blasted the ball way over the target while the Muharraq goalkeeper blocked Mubarak Hassan’s kick to give the visitors a 5-4 win.
“Muharraq deserved the win,” Maradona said. “They took the match out of our hands, they took control of the midfield. If they were a bit more focused and organised in their tactics, they could have won it before the penalties.”
Maradona had warned his players before the match not to take their opponents lightly after winning the first leg 3-1 in Bahrain, but Naser’s sending off turned the tide of the game, though Yaser Salem gave them hope with his equaliser on 45 minutes. Latif scored the visitors’ second six minutes after the restart before Salah Abdulhamid got their third on 65 minutes to force the game to be decided on spot kicks.
“This is a very important win, not just for Muharraq but for all of Bahrain,” said Essa Sadoon, the Muharraq coach. “We have waited 27 years for this title and I present this as a gift to the nation and our king ... The sending off of Naser also gave us a boost early in the game.
“Al Wasl were very tired towards the end and it is very difficult to play with nine men in these conditions.”
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