ABU DHABI // Al Wahda edged closer to earning a semi-final spot behind Al Ain in the Etisalat Cup Group A with a 2-0 home win over an undermanned Baniyas at the Al Nahyan Stadium last night.
Fernando Baiano, the Brazilian striker, gave them a fifth-minute lead when he volleyed a ball that fell into his path after Eisa Ahmed's effort deflected off a Baniyas defender, and then rounded it off with a spot-kick seven minutes from time.
"We had good start and the early goal also helped. But I was not happy with the way we played as the game progressed," said Josef Hickersberger, the Wahda coach, after his side notched their third successive win in the competition.
"This is a competition we are using to provide the youngsters with an opportunity to develop their game and I am happy that they are doing pretty well."
Baniyas were reduced to 10 men when Fawzi Basheer, the Omani international, was sent off shortly before the break for disputing and pushing the referee Mohammed Abdulkarim.
Ali Masarri joined him after a second booking for felling Fahad Masoud, resulting in the penalty.
Wahda could have added to their tally but Mohammed Khalef, the Baniyas goalkeeper, made a couple of saves to keep his side in the game until the last seven minutes. He did well to parry a bullet effort from Baiano on the hour, and he pushed out a fiercely struck shot from Mohammed Salam.
Baiano's goals were his third and fourth in cup play; the prolific veteran has rarely featured in the tournament.
Al Ain took an unassailable lead at the top with a 2-1 away result over Dubai. Bandar Mohammed fired the winner for Al Ain in the 69th minute after Abubaker Kamara had cancelled Saif Mohammed's first-half goal.
Kamara's goal was his seventh in cup competition, making him the most potent scorer thus far in the competition. Al Ain took their tally to 19 points, from five victories and four draws in nine cup matches, five points clear of Wahda.
Al Dhafra kept alive their hopes of a passage to the last four with a 1-0 away win over Al Nasr.
Dhafra play Dubai at home and Wahda travel to Al Ain in next weekend's final group-phase matches. A victory for Dhafra and a Wahda defeat away to Al Ain would lift the Western Region team into the semi-finals, ahead of the defending Pro League champions.