x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Al Wahda escape with a point from Al Wasl trip

A brace by Damian Diaz helps Abu Dhabi visitors rescue a point and split honours.

Al Wasl, in yellow, took time to find their feet but rose to the occasion in the second half after changes made by coach Hector Cuper. Hasan Alraesi / Al Ittihad
Al Wasl, in yellow, took time to find their feet but rose to the occasion in the second half after changes made by coach Hector Cuper. Hasan Alraesi / Al Ittihad

Al Wasl 3 Al Wahda 3

Wasl: Fahad Hadeed 11, Abdullah Kazim 50, Mohammed Nasser 77

Wahda: Sebastian Tagliabue 20, Damian Diaz 35, 86

Man of the match: Fahad Hadeed (Al Wasl)

DUBAI // Two weeks ago, if you had asked the Al Wasl fans to name one player indispensable to their team, a huge majority would have picked Argentine Mariano Donda.

Last night, after an unimpressive first 45 minutes, he was substituted by his new boss, compatriot Hector Cuper, for not doing the job assigned to him. Wasl were trailing at the time and Andre Senghor was sent out as replacement.

The ploy worked as a sharper-looking Wasl equalised five minutes into the second half through 17-year-old Abdullah Kazim and then took the lead in the 77th minute, with Senghor playing provider for Mohammed Nasser.

However, four minutes from time, another Argentine, Damian Diaz struck his second of the night to help Al Wahda return home with a point from a 3-3 draw at the Zabeel Stadium. Sebastian Tagliabue, also from Argentina, had scored Wahda’s first.

“The change was technical,” said Cuper, denying any niggles had a part to play in Donda’s exit.

“I gave him some instructions and but he could not carry out my orders so I had to make the changes.”

Donda, however, was not the only man to upset Cuper with his performance in the first half. The manager was unhappy with virtually the entire squad.

“In the first half, our performance was not very good, both in attack and defence,” Cuper said. “After the changes in the second half, we played better and we got two more goals.

“I believe the result is fair, but it was disappointing that we allowed a goal with only four minutes remaining.”

The Wasl coach, however, was pleased with the performance of the two teenagers he had started with – Kazim and Ali Salmeen. Donda was the lone foreign player on the pitch as Cuper left Senghor and the Moroccan Abdelfettah Boukhriss on the bench.

The tactics seemed to be working early as the hosts took the lead in the 11th minute with the hugely impressive Fahad Hadeed drilling the ball into the far corner following a swift run down the right.

Wahda, however, were level nine minutes later when Tagliabue headed in a Mahmoud Khamis delivery past the hesitant Wasl keeper Ahmed Mahmoud.

A shoddy clearance by Ghanem Basheer then allowed the visitors to take the lead in the 35th minute as grateful Diaz, after a quick one-two with Tagliabue, blasted home.

A goal down, Cuper made changes at the break and it worked as Kazim, who had turned out for the UAE at the recent Under 17 World Cup, got the equaliser.

Chasing a ball through on goal, the teenager outsprinted a Wahda defender, got the better of the charging goalkeeper Adel Al Hosani and then calmly slotted home into the unmanned goal.

Senghor was unfortunate not to get on the score sheet in the 61st minute when his shot bounced back off the post, but he did help Mohammed Nasser make it 3-2 in the 77th minute with a deft pass that the Emirati slotted home.

However, with only four minutes remaining on the clock, Diaz curled in the equaliser after earning a free kick just a metre outside the box.

“We would have liked to win, but I am happy because my team, like we did against Al Jazira [in last week’s 4-3 loss], fought for the best result possible,” said Jose Peseiro, the Wahda manager, who is also a newcomer to the Arabian Gulf League.

“It’s incredible that a team scores six goals in two games and still fails to win. But our team made mistakes and we need to work hard to make sure we do not repeat these mistakes.”

arizvi@thenational.ae

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