ABU DHABI // Josef Hickersberger described it as "one of the best matches I've seen in the last two years in the UAE", a statement which begged two questions:
Which game was better than Al Wahda's riveting 2-2 draw with Al Jazira on Friday night? And can the two Abu Dhabi clubs provide a similar level of skill and entertainment on April 11 when they meet in the President's Cup final?
"It was a very good game between two big clubs," said Abel Braga, Hickersberger's opposite as the Jazira coach. "It was a good result for both teams."
All four goals were well-earned. Both sides led. Each had thousands of vocal supporters among the noisy crowd of 9,463 at Al Nahyan Stadium. The match was physical but had very little diving.
And when it was over, at least four players on each team swapped shirts, an unusual sight at a league game but perhaps one that reflected the respect between the teams, one the defending Pro League champions, the other the front-runners for the 2011 title, who have twice played out draws in the league this season.
"It was a big game for both teams and both teams played very hard," Hickersberger said. "But it was a fair game, too; no bad fouls. It was an open game and nice to watch, and I hope everyone felt that way."
More than bragging rights in the capital were at stake. Jazira have fallen just short of their first league title so many times that any lost points are rued. But Braga's side trailed 1-0 in Wahda's stadium and could not feel too badly about leaving with a point. They remain unbeaten in 14 matches this season, and have not lost in 22 league games going back to a 2-1 defeat at Wahda on February 14, 2010.
Mohammed al Shehhi, the national team midfielder, was as active as he has been in recent years and scored the first goal for Wahda. Jazira responded with goals by their Brazilian forwards, Bare's coming on a show of power when he shrugged of Hamdan al Kamali in the box, and Ricardo Oliveira's as he pushed a shot into the goal on a splendid through pass from Ibrahim Diaky.
Wahda scored a minute later when Mahmoud Khamis crossed to Ismail Mater, who headed home from 10 yards.
"We made one big mistake: we were too happy after scoring our second goal and let them get their second," Braga said.
Wahda have struggled to find their stride this season but have looked more formidable in their past three games, an Asian Champions League draw away to Persepolis of Iran; a 2-1 victory over Al Wasl in the President's Cup semi-finals and the tie with Jazira.
Hickersberger said: "We will face Jazira again in the President's Cup final, and after this game we feel like we are on the same level and can capture the President's Cup from them."