ABU DHABI // Sebastian Tagliabue scored a late winner for Al Wahda to clinch a 1-0 win over Dubai and give their coach Karel Jarolim a winning start in his first game.
Matar sprinted more than half the pitch down the left flank before firing a dipping cross for Tagliabue to score with a powerful shot that deflected off Abdullal Malallah and came to rest in the back of the net.
"We played similar to what we played in the friendlies in our camp in Germany, yet we found it very hard to score," Jarolim said. "Ismail Matar made a lot of difference when he came on to the pitch. He is a very experienced player and created a lot of moves.
"Ismail is also the captain of the team and wanted to get on to the pitch even though he was not 100 per cent. This is the kind of spirit we want from the players.
"We certainly could have played better but the result was more important for us as it was our first game for the season"
Jarolim revealed at the pre-match conference that Matar was not 100 per cent as he joined the training late after returning from the treatment of his troubled knee during the summer.
However, the Czech had no hesitation to bring him in after seeing his team's attacking forays were either breaking down or leading to errant shots.
Matar's arrival, 12 minutes before the break, had an immediate impact on the home side.
His presence appeared to have opened up a crack on the visitor's defence, yet efforts of Tagliabue and Adel Abdullah were neutralised by Jamal Abdullah, the Dubai goalkeeper.
Tagliabue's volley was blocked and Adel Abdullah's powerfully struck 25-yard effort was pushed by the Dubai keeper to keep the score deadlocked at the break.
Matar, who replaced the 19-year-old midfielder Omar Al Rashedi, was unlucky when a rocket from him inside the box ricocheted off a defender in the opening minute of the second half.
Wahda pushed hard on resumption and got close to scoring twice early in the second half.
Tagliabue and Damian Diaz, the Argentine duo making their first appearances in an official game, worked down the left flank to set up Suhail Al Mansoori with a scoring opportunity, but the 20-year-old midfielder was too slow on the shot.
The Dubai keeper was on the spot again with a brilliant effort to keep out a curling shot from Diaz.
He was off target with a shot from just outside the box after dribbling past a couple of defenders. Tagliabue then saw another of his efforts blocked by Abdullah.
The pressure was on Wahda as they failed to find the target despite dominating the game from the onset. They were frustrated as the visitors put up a stubborn defence.
Jarolim used up all three substitutes by the 74th minute and must have been relieved at the end result.
Wahda were also depleted with injuries to Marco Estrada, the Chile international, and Hamdan Al Kamali and Eisa Ahmed, while Mohammed Al Shehhi, Saeed Al Kathiri and Mubarak Al Mansouri are on national duty.
Reuda Martin, the Dubai coach, said it was hard to assess the match because of the punishing conditions.
The players from both teams struggled under Tuesday night's energy-sapping conditions with the temperatures hovering around 34°C and 71 per cent humidity.
"First of all it was a very difficult match because of the weather," Martin said.
"We fought until the end, though, and Wahda scored a late winner and they deserved it.
"We controlled the game in the first half and created a few chances. Wahda didn't have some of their key players but we, too, had a few players absent for this game," he said.
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