ABU DHABI // Fernando Baiano has been a revelation since his brush with the law. The Brazilian scored his fifth goal in four games as Al Wahda emerged 2-1 winners over Diego Maradona's Al Wasl and move up to fourth in the Pro League.
Baiano celebrated his goal by beating his right hand repeatedly on his chest after completing a flowing move from the home side, and then his compatriot Hugo, regained the lead 10 minutes from time after Juan Manuel Olivera had struck the equaliser.
Khalid Jalal worked his way down the right flank to set up Ismail Matar inside the box, and the diminutive Emirati forward drew out the Wasl defence before slipping possession towards the unmarked Baiano, who dispatched the ball neatly to the back of the net.
Baiano was on target again but from an offside position in that occasion. Mahmoud Khamis sent a dipping long ball across and Hugo, the Brazilian midfielder, headed back towards Baiano.
The visitors cancelled out Wahda's lead with a strongly second half play. The South Americans, Juan Olivera, the Uruguayan forward, headed a cross from Mariano Donda, the Argentine midfielder but the home side regrouped after a period of slackness to regain the lead.
Mahmoud Khamis sent a cross that sailed over Baiano and for Hugo timed his run to perfection and connect a powerful header past Majed Naser, the Wasl goalkeeper.
It was Maradona's first visit to Wahda and a giant banner erected by the club's fans and supporters read, "Maradona – the legend. Welcome to our country and stadium. You are the best ever. We all love you too much."
The football legend may have been pleased with the reception he received but not with the result on the pitch.
Wahda started well and had enjoyed a major share of the possession and territory. Hamdan Al Kamali fired a bullet from more than 40 yards that just touched the goalkeeper to go out of play early in the game.
Majed Naser did well to hold on to a close range effort from Matar off a through pass from Hugo.
For the visitors, Yaser Salem's header from a corner towards the near post was blocked by Adel Al Hosani, the Wahda goalkeeper.
And Fahed Masoud's shot from 35 yards ricocheted off the crossbar in added time of the first half, and that was as close as the visitors got for an equaliser during that period.
Wasl were better organised after the break.
They were on the offensive and could have scored early in that period, but Essa Ali sent his shot wide after Oliveira had set him up inside the box.
Al Hosani, playing in his first league match in place of the suspended Mutaz Abdulla, did well to push a dipping shot from Richard Porta, the Australian forward.
Then came Wahda's turn to test the visitor's goal.
Hugo sent a meek shot from outside the area at Naser after Baiano had fed him with a back-pass, and the Wasl goalkeeper did well to block a shot from Jalal, who smashed shot after a clearance from Waheed Ismail.
Mohammed Al Shaibah, who Maradona did not want in his squad, was outstanding in Wahda's defence. The Oman international loaned to the Abu Dhabi club formed a solid line at the back with Al Kamali, Haider Ali and Eissa Abdulla.
They quartet did a good job by not allowing much space for Olivera, Porta and Donda to manoeuvre.
Josef Hickersberger, the Wahda coach, was naturally ecstatic about the fight his side put up throughout the game.
"We had a good first half but slackened a bit in the second half. However, we did well to recover and win the game," he said. “Of course we are happy with the win against Wasl yet I cannot say our ambitions are to win the league.
"We had a lot of problems at the start but the team has done pretty well. But it is still not that easy for us to play at the level we are expected to play because some of the players are still not 100 per cent after returning from injuries."
Maradona rued his side's missed chances last night. "We didn’t play as well as we did against Al Nasr in the last game. Wahda had two chances and they scored from those two," he said.
"There are many reasons for the defeat and one was our passes were not good enough and they always went towards the opponent. This wasn’t acceptable."
When asked of his team’s chances in the league after nine rounds, the Argentine said: “After this performance I don’t think we are championship winning side. There was no character and no enthusiasm. If you want to win, we can’t give the ball back to the opponent. We made a lot of mistakes and it is pretty obvious.
Maradona also added that players who are not up to the mark will likely be eased out of the team in the January transfer window.
"Those players who are not up to the level will definitely be replaced. I want all players n my squad to perform at an accepted level."
Al Ain 4 Emirates 0
Asamoah Gyan opened the floodgates with a sixth-minute penalty and Abdulaziz Fayez doubled it a minute before half time. Mohammed Naser, who came in for the injured Gyan on the half hour, added a third, four minutes on resumption, and Mohammed Salem completed the rout with a 67th-minute strike. The result took Al Ain’s tally to 23, five more than Al Shabab, their closest challengers. For Emirates, it was their eighth successive defeat in nine games.
Dubai 1 Baniyas 2
Yousuf Jaber and Andre Senghor, above, struck twice within three minutes as Baniyas came from a goal down to clinch a 2-1 away win over Dubai. Jaber cancelled out the home team’s lead in the 67th minute and Senghor, the Senegalese striker, headed the winner shortly thereafter. Dubai drew first blood through Hassan Abdelrahman’s goal six minutes after the break. With the win, Baniyas moved up a couple of places to eighth.