DUBAI // Confusion reigned at the Rashid Stadium last night, yet it had little to do with the dust and dirt that blanketed Dubai and threatened to render redundant a match between the Pro League’s top two clubs.
With the tepid encounter between Al Ain and Al Ahli drawing to a goalless conclusion, the referee’s assistant, Mohammed Al Mehairi, correctly decided against awarding a penalty to the hosts and was promptly struck by an object thrown from a section of the Ahli support.
Al Mehairi, blood gushing from his head, required treatment and emerged from a crowd of players and officials with the wound heavily bandaged.
The referee, Hamad Al Sheikh Hashmi, appeared then to cancel the game before the three minutes of injury time had elapsed, an action that blatantly obscures the outcome.
Rumours quickly surfaced that the early termination meant the match was void – even that Al Ain were awarded a 3-0 victory – yet a source at the UAE FA referees’ committee told The National any decision would not be taken until Al Sheikh Hashmi had filed an official report.
It was expected late last night, or even this morning. The source suggested the report would first be presented to the Pro League Committee (PLC) and then passed to the UAE FA. When contacted, the PLC instructed The National seek answers from the referees’ committee.
The match report published on the PLC website stated the result was “suspended until confirmation of a decision from the Disciplinary Committee”.
Ahli forward Grafite said afterwards he agreed with the referee’s decision to call off the match.
“I just saw his head was bleeding, someone must have thrown something but it was the best decision to end the game because the ambience was not good,” said the Brazilian. “The ambience was not so good before the game but the whole thing was bad for both teams. Sometimes have you someone doing something dangerous. This is football and you can’t win every game.
“What happened today is very bad for the game and for our team and Al Ain also.”
While in the immediate aftermath the club’s respective coaches were oblivious to the brewing storm, they spoke in definite terms regarding the repercussions of a perceived stalemate.
Cosmin Olaroiu, the Al Ain manager already deprived of Asamoah Gyan through injury, had chosen to start Omar Abdulrahman and Alex Brosque, two of his leading lights, on the bench.
So to have departed with a point, and still a healthy eight-point lead in the table, certainly contented the Romanian. “We faced the most difficult opponent we have in the league, in my opinion the best team we can play, and passed the test,” Olaroiu said.
“Even though we missed players of high quality we were organised.
“Those players we used put in a great effort, showing a lot of spirit and determination. Now our intentions switch to the next game in the Asian Champions League.”
In fact, Al Ain always had one eye on Tuesday’s trip to Qatar to face Al Rayyan. Although Abdulrahman and Brosque were introduced in the second half, this was a disjointed display from the champions.
Yousef Ahmad, the 18-year-old striker, was given a rare place in the original line-up, and nearly produced, only for Majed Naser, the Ahli goalkeeper, to thwart his first-half attempt. Jires Kembo-Ekoko then failed to direct the rebound on target.
For Ahli, Ricardo Quaresma offered their best route to goal, but his curling effort on 23 minutes was parried by Mahmoud Al Mas in the Al Ain goal. Given the absence of any real quality, a 0-0 draw, if it stands, seemed a fair result.
“We didn’t deserve to score against a very defensive Al Ain,” said Quique Sanchez Flores, the Ahli coach.
“But we’ve reduced a huge gap on them in the past three months and are happy with our position in the league. We can qualify for next season’s Champions League.”
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