SHAMKA // Franky Vercauteren's first game in charge of Al Jazira ended in defeat as Al Wahda avenged their 4-0 drubbing in the President's Cup final last season by winning the season-opening Super Cup in a penalty shootout 7-6 after a 2-2 draw.
Jazira had a chance to win the shootout after Hugo's attempt, with the score tied 6-6, crashed against the crossbar. But Saleh Obaid, the Jazira captain, sent his shot wide to let Wahda off the hook.
Omar Ali converted with Wahda's next penalty and then Mutaz Abdulla, the veteran goalkeeper, drew on his experience to push out Ahmed Jumaa's spot kick to send the Wahda fans into celebrations at the Baniyas stadium.
Vercauteren was gracious in defeat. "We must give them credit for winning even though I don't like to lose," he said.
"It was a strange game because they were awarded three penalties at crucial stages. I thought we, too, deserved at least one penalty.
"We can only take lessons from this game and keep working for the matches ahead."
Wahda had a golden chance to take the lead just four minutes into the game when they were awarded the first of three penalties.
Jazira's Khalid Sabeel was penalised for handling a corner and the referee Mohammed Abdulkarim flashed a yellow card to the defender and awarded the spot kick.
However, Hugo did not strike the ball well and Khalid Essa, the Jazira goalkeeper, made the save.
The Brazilian midfielder then put Wahda ahead in 28th minute from a second spot kick.
Ibrahim Diaky equalised five minutes before the break, sliding the ball home from a short pass from Ricardo Oliveira.
Jazira went 2-1 up when Jumaa smashed a deflected ball home off the underside of the bar but their lead was short-lived when Wahda were awarded another penalty.
This time Juma Abdullah, the Jazira defender, felled Amer Omar. Hugo was on the spot again to make it two goals apiece and take the game to penalties.
Josef Hickersberger, the Wahda manager, praised Hugo for having the nerve to take two more penalties after missing his initial effort.
"You don't see that often because it takes a brave man to award three penalties in a match," he said. "In my opinion they were all justifiable decisions. It takes a brave referee to award three penalties.
"We are happy to start with a trophy but we must not be carried away with this win. I will tell my players to remain humble and work hard for the remainder of the season and we will have more success."
Vercauteren will be happy that his foreign quartet - Brazilians Oliveira and Bare; Matias Delgado, the Argentine midfielder, and new Australian signing Lucas Neill - all got games under their belts ahead of the new season.
Wahda were without the central defender Hamdan Al Kamali, who suffered a cheekbone fracture in the UAE's 3-2 defeat to Kuwait in the 2014 World Cup qualifier in Al Ain on September 2, and certainly looked more vulnerable without him organising the back four.
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