ABU DHABI // With the Pro League's three other representatives losing their opening Asian Champions League matches, it was left to Al Jazira to restore some UAE pride last night. But even Abel Braga's big-spenders - Brazilian international Rafael Sobis and all - could not muster a victory.
They succumbed to poor finishing, a missed penalty, woeful refereeing and an injury time sucker punch to lose 1-0 at home to Qatar's Umm Salal. After turgid Tuesday, this was woeful Wednesday for the Pro League's hopefuls in contintenal action, with Alaa Hubail scoring the late winner in Jazira's Group C opener. With Jazira, who dominated the match, pressing for a winner, the Qatar international midfielder broke down the right flank to pick up a through ball and beat Ali Kasheif, his shot spinning high off the Jazira keeper's arm before bouncing despairingly into the net, leaving Braga's men to reflect on a missed penalty from Fernando Baiano.
The Pro League's top scorer sent his shot crashing against a post, via keeper Baba Malik's fingertips, and the Brazilian's shot off the rebound was pushed over the crossbar by keeper. The Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura had pointed to the spot after the captain Ibrahim Diaky was brought down on the byline. Jazira were looking for a sole UAE victory in the opening round of the group stages after Al Ahli and Sharjah's defeats on Tuesday and Shabab's loss in Iran yesterday.
Jazira dominated the first half and could have gone ahead early through Diaky. The midfielder collected the ball 10 yards out from a neat chipped pass by Sobis but his lobbed shot sailed over the crossbar. The visitors seemed content to play a cat and mouse game and hit Braga's men on the counter attack. Some vicious tackles in the second-half went unpunished by the lenient referee. First the Umm Salal captain Aziz Ben Askar went in over the top off the ball on Rashi Abdulrahman, connecting with the Jazira defender halfway down his shin and leaving him screaming in agony. Free-kick but no yellow card from Nishimura.
Then, with midfielder Abdulla Qasim on the floor after tripping over the ball, Umm Salal's Mohammed Husain raked his studs down Qasim's chest, not once, but twice. Still the referee kept his cards in his pocket. As the frustration grew for Jazira, it was Umm Salal who started to gain confidence. The Brazilian Magno was denied by the alert Kasheif from a close-range shot 12 minutes from time, a warning call before the late drama.
"We'd have won the game had we scored from the spot kick but it was not our day. I can't blame Fernando Baiano," said the Jazira manager Abel Braga. firstname.lastname@example.org