x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Al Wasl 3 Kalba 1

Lacombe's side, though, scrambled to a scrappy triumph, Rashid Essa striking either side of an Ahmed Jahouh penalty before Emiliano Alfaro notched a third in stoppage time.

Rashed Essa (in yellow) fights for the ball with Joher Musabeh Obaid from Kalba at Zabeel Stadium.
Rashed Essa (in yellow) fights for the ball with Joher Musabeh Obaid from Kalba at Zabeel Stadium.

DUBAI // Comedy reigned for the majority last night at the Zabeel Stadium and, out of keeping with Al Wasl's recent performances, it had nothing to do with the footballing fare.

The rain that battered Dubai for much of yesterday seemed to have collected solely on this saturated pitch, with the home side and Kalba struggling to temper their relatively stormy seasons.

Football boots could have made way for flippers and scuba gear - the match even halted for 20 minutes in the first half when maintenance men and brushes were deployed to sweep puddles from areas particularly inflicted.

At first, the players rejoiced in alien conditions.

Defenders could blame the sodden turf on a propensity to hoof the ball any time it ventured near goal; midfielders partook in various forms of aquaplaning, often leaving the ball, or intended target, behind as they skidded across the surface; attackers, typically in little need of an excuse to tumble in the penalty area, tried to make the most of slippery surroundings.

Passes routinely got held up on the waterlogged pitch. In more ways than one, the match should have been deemed a washout.

Wasl, without a victory in five Pro League games before the visit of the table's bottom club, are unrecognisable to the team that began the campaign with vigour and verve, their dependence on Mariano Donda, the absent Argentine playmaker, becoming more apparent by the week.

Donda returned to the substitute's bench last night, but presumably given the conditions underfoot, was spared a cameo appearance.

His side, though, scrambled to a scrappy triumph, Rashid Essa striking either side of an Ahmed Jahouh penalty before Emiliano Alfaro notched a third in stoppage time.

Both Essa's goals contained a hefty element of luck, the first a free-kick deflected past Mohammed Salim, the Kalba goalkeeper, by one of his own defenders. The second took another slight touch from a Kalba defender on its way towards goal, although it was an apparent handball from Alfaro in the build-up that would have irritated the visitors.

Kalba had only just drawn level with their seventh goal of the season, Jahouh sending Rashid Ali, the home goalkeeper, the wrong way from the spot after he was adjudged to have fouled Amir Mohammed at the byline.

The final whistle was greeted with embraces in the Wasl dugout as Guy Lacombe celebrated his first league win since taking charge last month in testing circumstances. The Frenchman will hope much more is to come from his side; that the floodgates have been opened.

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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