x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Baiano's goal had us dreaming

The Brazilian’s strike for Al Wahda allowed fans at Zayed Sports City, albeit for a short while, to think lofty thoughts of facing Inter Milan.

Fernando Baiano, the Al Wahda striker, put the Pro League champions on level terms with Seongnam during last night's quarter-final, before the South Koreans took advantage of some sloppy defending. Hussein Malla / AP Photo
Fernando Baiano, the Al Wahda striker, put the Pro League champions on level terms with Seongnam during last night's quarter-final, before the South Koreans took advantage of some sloppy defending. Hussein Malla / AP Photo

The Brazilian's strike last night allowed fans at Zayed Sports City, albeit for a short while, to think lofty thoughts of facing Inter Milan

Well, three minutes. Three stirring minutes. Three rambunctious minutes energised Zayed Sports City last night, enabling fans to think the kind of outrageous thoughts that often make sport bearable.

Three minutes. From the 27th to the 30th they came, three dazzling minutes among 71 pretty fair ones that preceded 20 useless ones.

The three buzzy minutes kicked off with a marvellous goal from Al Wahda, from Eisa Ahmed's drive into the box and from Fernando Baiano's flick of the head that sent the ball well left of a frozen goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong. Baiano went roaming into the corner for one impassioned celebration.

And as his head quivered in mirth there while teammates came round, Wahda had just matched the South Korean titans Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma to draw level at 1-1 in the quarter-final of the Club World Cup, enabling some crazy, crazy inklings.

For three minutes, you could think that the Abu Dhabi club that finished at the bottom of Group B in the Asian Champions League last season might be able to hang with the club that won the whole thing.

You could think that the Pro League, which in the Club World Cup definitely had moved from lame in 2009 to not-so-lame-at-all in 2010, might be able to access a perch of quite good, even while not-so-lame rates improvement.

The 30,625 could think that this Wahda side had shown stomach, rebounding from a galling early stage that could challenge many a psyche, a nightmarish opening with the defence leaking toward non-existence and the Seongnam players all but constructing a small family dwelling in the Wahda box.

They could note that even though Wahda had conceded a gaffe goal in the fourth minute on a defensive miscommunication that presented a goal to the left foot of the Colombian traveller Mauricio Molina, the home side had steadied even from what Josef Hickersberger, the coach, called "a big blow to the confidence of the players".

Alert fans could note that the epitome of the steadying had come from Hamdan al Kamali, the 21-year-old defender who abetted the gaffe yet steeled himself for big-time stops soon thereafter.

For three minutes, yes, a reasonable person even could sit there - or, stand there - and think that maybe Wahda somehow could figure in the overriding melodrama of the Club World Cup, that being the stormy fate of Rafa Benitez, the Inter Milan head coach, as those fans try to cope with downsized hopes following Jose Mourinho's soaring season of 2009/10.

Could Benitez approach Wednesday desperately needing to beat … Al Wahda?

Some three minutes, there.

No wonder that in those three minutes, the crowd gave a pretty good version of a din. No wonder that it demonstrated Zayed Sports City's knack for holding noise, and no wonder that the Congolese brass section from the TP Mazembe band played on to the crowd's delight. Clearly, after the trumpets, trombones and tubas have enhanced two stadiums on two nights, all would agree the TP Mazembe brass section adds such joy that it belongs at every sporting event imaginable.

Yes, even Wimbledon.

So maybe it's also no wonder that in all this fine commotion of the three minutes, all this giddiness, the Wahda defence went disorganised, and Basheer Saeed had to make a worthy play just to avert damage and settle for a Seongnam corner.

With the three minutes about to end, Mr Molina went to take that corner, readying the same left foot that scored earlier.

There it went, and in a world full of inadequate corner kicks, groaner corner kicks and other corner kicks that make you grasp the difficulty of the art, this beauty should have come equipped with an aria. It curled its way rightward unmistakably into the considerable skull of Sasa Ognenovski, the Australian captain, who headed it in with such certainty that it seemed almost perfunctory.

There ended the three minutes, and there began the march toward what Hickersberger would say about realising how much work lay ahead to compete in such matches, how only some of the Wahda players could hang in one-against-one opposite the decorated Korean side.

Sure, little bursts of hope would follow as it stayed 2-1 from the 30th minute to the 71st, before Cho Dong-geon finally drew a Wahda team picture around him atop the box and slid a ball through that crowd over to Choi Sung-kuk, whose blast tore past Adel al Hosani into the upper-left corner. Only then did outright deflation arrive.

Once the fourth Seongnam goal came 10 minutes after that, the crowd started flocking for the exits, having witnessed 70 contentious minutes that did contain three soaring ones.

sports@thenational.ae