x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Al Wahda now within striking distance after beating Baniyas

Damian Diaz scored a goal and set up another while Ismail Matar was the provider of two goals as Al Wahda topped Baniyas 3-2 and leapfrogged two teams in the table, reports Paul Oberjuerge.

Al Wahda's Sebastian Tagliabue, right, netted two goals on Tuesday night to lift his team to a 3-2 win over Baniyas. Delores Johnson / The National
Al Wahda's Sebastian Tagliabue, right, netted two goals on Tuesday night to lift his team to a 3-2 win over Baniyas. Delores Johnson / The National

Al Wahda 3 Baniyas 2

Al Wahda: Tagliabue 6’, 71’, Diaz 60’

Baniyas: Jaber 34’, Munoz 81’

Man of the match: Damian Diaz (Al Wahda)

ABU DHABI // Jose Peseiro concedes Al Wahda no longer are playing for trophies. But a finish in the Asian Champions League places is still achievable, especially after the capital club defeated Baniyas 3-2 on Tuesday night to vault to fifth in the Arabian Gulf League table.

“It is something to fight for,” he said of a top-four finish. “If we believe in ourselves, we have nine more matches. It is mathematically possible.”

The Portuguese manager saw timely production at the Al Nahyan Stadium from players old and new to the club.

The old is Ismail Matar, who is finally 30 after being a fixture in Wahda football since early in the last decade.

The new is Damian Diaz, the diminutive Argentine in his first UAE season who is both instigator and agitator, despite his seemingly frail 5ft 4ins frame.

Diaz scored a goal and set up another, and was cautioned for a not unusual outburst of aggression on the pitch, and Matar was the provider of two goals as Wahda moved up to 25 points, jumping over Al Ain, Al Dhafra and last night’s opponents Baniyas, who are all on 23, and Al Nasr, at 24.

“It was a hard game against a good team with good players and coach,” Peseiro said.

“I think my team showed a fantastic spirit because everyone knows how many injured players we have. Our team, we deserved to win this match.”

Baniyas had been hoping to build momentum, in a league match brought forward 10 days, ahead of their Champions League qualifier at home next week against Al Suwaiq of Oman or Al Qadsia of Bahrain.

But they had ongoing struggles building up an attack that would allow their South American duo of Carlos Munoz and Luis Farina to take advantage.

Diaz broke a 1-1 deadlock by winning a ball in midfield, sending it out to the left flank to Matar, then charging towards the goal, where he got a return pass from Matar and shoved the ball into the goal even as he was being bowled over by Baniyas’ Walid Al Yammahi.

Sebastian Tagliabue, Diaz’s Argentine compatriot, got his second goal of the night, his 13th of the season, when he sharply headed home a long cross from Matar. He earlier had rolled home a goal after a fine through pass from Diaz only six minutes into the match, a goal cancelled out by Yousuf Jaber’s goal in the 35th.

The visitors drew close at the end, spectacularly, when Munoz scored a bicycle kick in the 81st minute, but could not equalise, much to the chagrin of their coach, Jorge da Silva.

“We didn’t play the way we wanted to play,” he said. “We made a lot of mistakes. We gave up two goals from our mistakes. We didn’t deserve to win.”

He said he still believes his side can survive the qualifying phases of the Champions League. “I think our performance didn’t reflect our normal performance,” he said. “We have to play Nasr first in the league [brought forward to Monday], then the Asian Cup, which is an important competition.”

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

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