x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Al Wahda end barren run

Omar Ali's late goal gives them fresh hope of progressing to the knockout stages of the Etisalat Cup.

Josef Hickersberger was relieved to see Al Wahda return to winning ways.
Josef Hickersberger was relieved to see Al Wahda return to winning ways.

ABU DHABI // Omar Ali's late goal ended a frustrating four-match losing streak in all competitions for Al Wahda.

It was a result the Pro League champions can find some solace in after a difficult run in form, and it also gives them fresh hope of progressing to the knockout stages of the Etisalat Cup.

Wahda took to the pitch in front of a disappointing crowd of 273 at the Al Nahyan stadium coming off the back of two league defeats to Baniyas and Al Dhafra, which followed on from losses to Pachuca, the North American champions, and Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma, the Asian champions, at the Club World Cup.

Both teams missed a flurry of chances after Nasr received an early blow when Carlos Tenerio, the Ecuadorian forward, suffered an ankle injury and had to be replaced by Jamal Ibrahim in the 14th minute.

Ibrahim later wasted a golden chance to put his team ahead, firing his effort over the bar when on one-to-one with Mutaz Abdulla, the Wahda goalkeeper.

That proved costly as Wahda took the game at the death and Josef Hickersberger, the Wahda coach, was relieved to get a win on the board.

"It was a solid team effort and I am very happy for the young players, who showed they can win even when the odds were against them," he said.

"This is what we need for the future for Wahda, confident young players.

"It wasn't easy for a team that was coming into a game after losing two league matches in one week. In terms of those circumstances, the win was very important for the team, now that we don't have much hopes in the league.

Wahda trail leaders Al Jazira by 14 points in the Pro League table, and Hickersberger acknowledged that the Abu Dhabi side are likely to focus more on the cup competitions for success in the second half of the season.

"We are far behind Al Jazira in the league, that's obvious. We need a miracle to defend our title. But of course, we have to put a lot of attention into the President's Cup and to the Asian Champions League," he added.

"In the Etisalat Cup we will continue to play with the young players. We will rest the more experience players, the players who played in the Club World Cup and league matches. We will play them only to keep them match-fit. The more experienced players will play every second or third game, in the Etisalat cup."

Eid Baroot, the Nasr coach, was left to reflect on what might have been as his side missed out on the chance to go second in Group A.

"We had a lot of chances but we didn't take them and had to pay the price," he said.

 

apassela@thenational.ae