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Zayed Al Kathiri of Al Wahda negotiates the ball against Al Shaab.
Zayed Al Kathiri of Al Wahda negotiates the ball against Al Shaab.

Pro League: Al Wahda capitalise on Al Shaab's mistake

Branko Ivankovic says his Al Wahda side 'didn't play to the high level of expectation we should have' as it takes a Hamdan Al Kamali penalty to lift Wahda to a 1-0 win.

ABU DHABI // Branko Ivankovic's pre-match warning almost came to fruition until a late penalty gave Al Wahda a 1-0 victory over struggling Al Shaab, making it five wins in five games in all competitions for the Abu Dhabi club.

Wahda had beaten Shaab four times previously this season, across three competitions, and Ivankovic had said he was worried complacency would creep in among his squad.

And Wahda struggled for 82 minutes on Saturday night to break the deadlock before a clumsy tackle from the substitute Rashid Ali on Salem Saleh earned them a penalty, which the defender Hamdan Al Kamali converted.

"I am very satisfied with the three points as my fears of losing the game nearly came true," Ivankovic said.

"We didn't play to the high level of expectation we should have in this game, but at the end all that mattered was the three points, which we achieved.

"I told my players to be patient and wait for the opportunities whether the goal will come early or towards the end.

"Of course, the pressure kept building as a goal didn't arrive until the last eight minutes.

"We had a lot of chances but it was one of those days when we couldn't get one on the back of the net. It doesn't matter how the goal came at the end but it was a clear penalty."

Shaab more than held their own against their opponents and Mutaz Abdulla, the goalkeeper, was outstanding against his former club.

He denied Papa Waigo twice in the first half and made an excellent stop from a one-on-one duel against the Senegalese forward in the second half.

Marius Sumudica, the Shaab coach, was "furious" with his players for throwing a point away late on and said his error-prone team must cut out mistakes.

"These are hard facts of life in football," the Romanian said. "I have to give my team a pat on their back for the fight they put up against a team like Wahda.

"Tonight's result doesn't do any justice to my team because we played a good game and created four or five chances from which we could have scored and won.

"Instead we gave them a penalty and lost the game. Wahda are a big team and we are a small team, but we matched them.

"In football we need some luck and we didn't have that tonight.

"I am furious because we lost to Dubai from a free kick five minutes from time, lost to Baniyas from three free kicks, and tonight we gifted Wahda a penalty.

"I have talked to my players, who say they make mistakes when they are under pressure, but I hope they will learn at some point that mistakes cost the games."

The defeat leaves the Sharjah club five points from safety near the foot of the table, with just 10 points from their 17 matches, while victory moves Wahda up sixth place on 27 points.

 

apassela@thenational.ae

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