AL AIN // An added-time penalty from Leonardo Lima salvaged a 1-1 draw for Al Nasr against Al Ain, but the deadlock was not enough for the Dubai side to keep alive their hopes of reaching the Etisalat Cup semi-finals.
The result dropped Al Ain a point behind Al Wahda atop Group A, but they have a game in hand against Al Shaab.
Wahda took their tally to 16 points, having got the better of Dubai 3-2. Nasr climbed to 11 points with one game to play, but cannot escape Group A.
Jires Kembo-Ekoko put Al Ain ahead 10 minutes from time and it looked like it was enough for the Garden City club to book their place in the last four. However, Abdullah Malallah, who came as a late substitute, conceded a penalty by bundling over Nasr's Jamal Ibrahim.
Lima, the Brazilian midfielder, stepped forward to send the spot kick crashing to the corner of the net to leave the Al Ain fans disappointed last night at the Tahnoun bin Mohammed Stadium.
Cosmin Olaroiu, the Al Ain coach, felt his club squandered an opportunity to qualify for the semi-finals.
"It was a bit sad to concede a goal in added time because we could have completed our qualification to the last-four stage," he said. "I am quite satisfied with the team's performance, though, considering we played without several of our key players" who are with their national teams.
"We made some mistakes but didn't pay for it.
"We deserved to win but that wasn't to be. Had we won, it could have been a morale-boosting result ahead of our President's Cup quarter-finals against Baniyas next week."
Ahmed Shambieh, the Nasr goalkeeper, had an outstanding game. He was in the thick of action and twice denied Mirel Radoi twice with a pair of saves early in the second half.
He pushed the ball over the crossbar off a close-range effort from Radoi and later held on to a powerful low shot from the Romanian. In-between, he did well to pluck the ball from the feet of Alex Brosque, the Australian.
Walter Zenga, the Nasr coach, said his team did all they could to keep their hopes alive in the competition.
"Of course, I am a disappointed now that we are out of this competition but not really disappointed how we played," he said. "We didn't give up in trying to win until the very last second of the game."
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