Al Wahda were 10 minutes away from a hard-earned victory over a second continental champion before finally losing to Pachuca on penalties.
Al Wahda floored by Pachuca comeback
Pachuca 2-2 Al Wahda
Pachuca win 4-2 on penalties
Pachuca Cvitanich 82’, 89’ Al Wahda Matar 44’, Al Hammadi 78’
Sent off: Hamdan al Kamali (Al Wahda)
Man of the match: Dario Cvitanich (Pachuca)
ABU DHABI // Al Wahda were 10 minutes away from a hard-earned victory over a second continental champion last night when a combination of exuberance and fatigue allowed Pachuca of Mexico to pull even after 90 minutes and win in a penalty shoot-out 4-2 at Zayed Sports City.
Reduced to 10 men in the 72nd minute of the fifth-place match after Hamdan al Kamali was shown his second yellow card, the Pro League champions actually doubled their 1-0 lead when Mahmoud al Hammadi booted home a rebound of his own shot in the 78th minute.
The prudent course would have been for the tournament hosts to pack their defence and hope to add the North American champions to the Oceanic champions on their list of conquests in this tournament.
But Wahda players pushing forward were caught upfield twice in the waning minutes and Dario Cvitanich punished them with two counter-attack goals.
In the shoot-out, four Pachuca players put their shots past Adel al Hosani, the Wahda goalkeeper, but Abdulraheem Jumaa's spot kick was stopped by Miguel Calero, and Modibi Diarra knocked his effort over the bar to end the match.
"We played much better than we did against Seongnam," said Josef Hickersberger, the Wahda coach, referring to a 4-1 quarter-finals defeat.
"It was good for the players' self-esteem and their reputation. It was a good farewell to this tournament despite losing on penalties."
The first half was dreary until a Jumaa pass from the back found Hugo sprinting up the near sideline. The Brazilian then crossed to Ismail Matar, who leapt into the air to meet the ball with the instep of his right foot, directing it into the goal.
"It has been a while since Matar scored, and I was very happy for him," Hickerbserger said.
As well as Pachuca, fatigue became an opponent for Wahda in the second half. Playing without Fernando Baiano, Magrao and Haider Ali, their captain, and facing a suddenly passionate Pachuca side, the home team came under increasing pressure.
Al Hosani made several fine saves, and was helped when Edgar Benitez knocked his penalty shot over the bar after al Kamali was red-carded in the area.
Hickersberger, the 62-year-old Austrian, said Wahda had achieved their minimum goal in the tournament when they defeated Hekari United 3-0 in the opening match. Al Ahli of the Pro League had fallen at the first hurdle last year.
"It was a must game for us to stay in the tournament," he said. "The second match [against Seongnam] was a nightmare because we didn't expect to concede four goals with defensive blunders.
"That's the match I will remember for a very long time because this is probably the last big tournament I will be a part of. It's very sad we didn't get a better result from Seongnam."