ABU DHABI // The absence of almost the entire first team was always going to hurt Al Wahda. With 15 players on international duty, for the senior team and at the Under 20 World Cup, they went down 2-0 to Sharjah in their Etisalat Cup Group A opener at the Al Nahyan stadium on Friday night. The Wahda manager Josef Hickersberger offered no excuses for the defeat, saying: "We had a poor game and I don't see why we should take the sheen off Sharjah's victory. They played better and deserved to win."
The Brazilian Marcelo scored two second-half goals to clinch a welcome victory for Sharjah, who had conceded six goals in their opening two Pro League matches - a defeat and draw against the promoted Emirates and Baniyas respectively. Hickersberger's side had 12 players in the squad for the UAE's friendly against Palestine last night, with three youngsters competing in Egypt. Their absence was compounded when the Brazilian midfielder Magrao suffered an injury on Thursday.
"It is true we didn't have several key players but that was not an excuse," said Hickersberger. "We didn't play well and I owe an apology for the fans. We have a big squad and I expected a better performance when they were given the opportunity." The Sharjah manager Manual Cajuda said: "The players were under tremendous pressure before this game. We didn't have the best of starts and now we can return with some of our confidence restored."
One of Cajuda's tactics was to keep Fernando Baiano, the Pro League's top scorer last season, under wraps. He added: "Baiano is always a danger inside the box. Of course he didn't have the support he usually would have received but one strategy was to keep him out of the action for as much as possible." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org