BANIYAS // When he offered his spectacles to the referee, Josef Hickersberger, the Al Wahda coach, was sent off by Mohammed al Zarouni, the match referee, who apparently saw no need for corrected vision.
As it turned out, it was good for Hickersberger, the 62-year-old Austrian, that he retained his eyeware because he was encouraged by what he saw in the second half.
To be sure, the visiting champions were defeated by emerging Pro League power Baniyas 2-1 before 3,522 fans, and fell 11 points behind leaders Al Jazira, and nine back of Baniyas, in the Pro League table.
Still, Hickersberger felt heartened by the way his side finished the game.
"If we can play as we did in the second half, I still think we have a good chance of defending the league title," he said.
Baniyas had surged to a two goal lead in the first half.
"We had a poor first half, and I think it was one of the worst I had witnessed," Hickersberger said. "But [the players] showed a lot of character to come back strongly and score a goal. And if we can continue playing the way we did in the second half, I think we still have a good chance of defending our title."
Andre Senghor opened the scoring with a penalty to take his league-leading tally to 12 from 10 games and Fawzi Basheer, the Oman international, later added a second from a looping shot that was badly misjudged by Adel al Hosani, the Wahda goalkeeper.
Mohammed al Shehhi, who came on as a late substitute for Wahda, narrowed the lead seven minutes from time but Baniyas held on to see out the rest of the game and claim the three points which took their season tally to 24.
Before the game, Hickersberger bemoaned the state of his side after three tough matches in the Club World Cup in the span of eight days.
But he did not cite the Fifa tournament as a reason for the defeat last night. Instead, he blamed two defensive lapses that were thoroughly out of character for what had been the hardest team to score against in the league; Wahda had conceded only five goals in their first eight league matches.
Senghor scored from the spot in the 12th minute after Basheer Saeed, the Wahda defender, extended both hands above his head and touched a cross in the box.
Fawzi Basheer doubled the lead in the 38th minute. His free kick from 30 yards struck the Wahda wall and came right back to him. He then kicked a high, looping shot that came down just under the bar and just beyond the fists of al Hosani, with the Wahda keeper badly at fault.
"This game, we played for the three points," said Lutfi al Benzarti, the Baniyas coach. "Having taken a 2-0 lead, we defended well in the second half. We knew Wahda strengthened their attack, and this is a side that had scored six goals in the Club World Cup.
"It is indeed a big step forward for us after a win with Wahda, and we are going the right way. Yet we want to take one game at a time because it is still too early in the league."
Trailing 2-0, Hickersberger augmented his attack by substituting Yaqoub al Hosani with Saeed al Kathiri and later brought in al Shehhi.
Hickersberger pushed up Hugo, the Brazilian midfielder, as Ismail Matar's striking partner in the absence of the injured Brazilian striker Fernando Baiano.
Al Kathiri who was doubtful before the match with flu, made little impact.