x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Al Wasl prevail in sloppy game over Ajman

In other UAE President's Cup matches, Al Dhaid shock Al Shaab and Al Nasr defeat Fujairah.

Al Wasl, in yellow, were ecstatic to beat Ajman in the President’s Cup on Monday night, but there is plenty of room for improvement. Razan Alzayani / The National
Al Wasl, in yellow, were ecstatic to beat Ajman in the President’s Cup on Monday night, but there is plenty of room for improvement. Razan Alzayani / The National

DUBAI // Pacing around the dugout in his crisply tailored suits, hands inside the pockets, Hector Cuper gives little away in terms of emotions. At times, he might simply shrug his shoulders in disdain, but his lips seldom move. On other occasions, the Argentine could just look away, scratching his head in disbelief.

There have been plenty of those moments in the dugout since he accepted the challenge to resuscitate the ailing Al Wasl team. But the symptoms seem just too severe at the moment and Cuper, 58, could perhaps try Sir Alex Ferguson’s famous blow-dryer treatment. The other methods do not seem to be working.

Drubbed 6-1 in the Bur Dubai derby last week by neighbours Al Nasr, the side put up another listless performance in an extra-time victory last night, doing nothing to lift the confidence of their fans or manager. Ajman were no better, but then, they are 13th on the Arabian Gulf League points table for a reason.

Fittingly, a sloppy Maher Jassim finish inside a crowded box, in the 114th minute of the match, decided the outcome of sloppy game. The teams were locked 1-1 after 90 minutes with Abdullah Khamis scoring for Ajman and Andre Senghor equalising.

While Cuper will certainly take the win, he will be far from pleased with the efforts of his players. Their performance graph is on the slide and the changes that the manager made did not make much of a difference.

Cuper started with Mariano Donda and Abdelfettah Boukhriss on the bench; Senghor and Australian Milan Susak were the two foreigners on duty and Ahmed Mahmoud, the goalkeeper in that 6-1 loss, was handed the gloves once again.

Ajman, who are currently 13th in the 14-team AGL, had only one foreign player on the list – captain Boris Kaabi. The others did not even make the trip because of injuries. Abdulwahab Abdulqadir’s team is really struggling with injuries and it was evident on the pitch. Former UAE international Saeed Al Kaas, who has played as a striker all his career, was on defensive midfield duty, spending most of the game alongside the back four.

Wasl could not have asked for a better opponent to help forget the pain and humiliation of the Bur Dubai derby, but they looked a bit cagey, especially goalkeeper Mahmoud, and that allowed Ajman to take the lead in the 19th minute.

Mahmoud failed to hold onto an Ahmed Al Yassi free-kick that came straight to him and Khamis blasted in the rebound.

Wasl, though not looking very convincing, managed to get the equaliser four minutes from the break. Playing a one-two with Mohammed Nasser inside the box, Senghor cleaned up with a neat placement through the legs of the Ajman keeper.

Al Yassi’s dipping free-kick in the 47th minute almost gave Ajman their second, but this time Mahmoud managed to push the ball away for a corner.

Wasl’s best chance of the session came in injury time when Jassim volleyed on the run, but the Ajman keeper managed to get his leg in on time.

In extra-time, Kaabi wasted a golden opportunity to put Ajman ahead, blasting the ball wide from close quarters and that miss proved costly as Jassim took the ball from the grasp of the Ajman keeper and booted home.

Al Dhaid 2 Al Shaab 2 (AET)

Al Dhaid stunned Al Shaab, winning 6-5 on penalties on Monday night. The two teams were tied 1-1 in normal play, sending the match into extra time. Al Shaab took the lead in extra time before a botched clearance was deflected into their net to level the scores and take the game to spot kicks.

Al Nasr 3 Dibba 2 (AET)

Arabian Gulf League side Al Nasr, in blue, survived a scare before securing their place in the last eight on Monday night. Lower-league Dibba Al Fujairah took a shock lead in the first half and managed to hold Ivan Jovanovic’s side to 2-2 after 90 minutes. Nasr grabbed the winner in extra time.