x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Ciel delivers Al Ahli to League Cup semi-finals with controversial penalty

A controversial late penalty proved the decisive factor as visitors Al Ahli beat Al Nasr 2-0 at Al Maktoum Stadium on Thursday night to progress to the semi-finals of the UAE League Cup.

Brett Holman, centre, and his Al Nasr teammates found themselves trailing Al Ahli at the sound of the whistle. Antonie Robertson / The National
Brett Holman, centre, and his Al Nasr teammates found themselves trailing Al Ahli at the sound of the whistle. Antonie Robertson / The National

AL NASR 0 AL AHLI 2

Al Ahli - Ciel 87’ (pen), Al Baloushi 90’

Man of the Match - Ciel

DUBAI // A controversial late penalty proved the decisive factor as visitors Al Ahli beat Al Nasr 2-0 at Al Maktoum Stadium on Thursday night to progress to the semi-finals of the UAE League Cup.

Brazilian Ciel was adjudged to have been fouled in the 85th minute and picked himself up to slot home from the spot. Adnan Al Baloushi then doubled his side’s lead in injury time as Nasr pushed for a late equaliser.

Ivan Jovanovic’s side had begun the match one place and one point behind their city rivals Ahli in the cup’s group stage and knew anything less than a home victory would end their hopes of finishing in the top two and progressing.

Yet, despite Nasr needing the three points, it was Ahli who started stronger. A clever chipped pass from Luis Antonio Jimenez saw Grafite played through on goal after just 13 minutes, but the Brazilian striker saw his shot well saved by the outrushing Mohammed Abdulla.

Ten minutes later Grafite found himself with another chance when Leonardo Lima was caught hesitating in his own penalty area. This time though, having beaten Abdulla, his first-time shot cannoned back off the upright.

“It was a very big game, very important,” Cosmin Olaroiu, the Ahli coach, said. “Both had a chance to qualify so that is why we fought so hard. It is good for us to get the three points and qualify for the semi-final.”

In the early exchanges, a luck of urgency was evident throughout the Nasr team with Brett Holman, the tireless Australian, repeatedly urging his teammates to exploit the space in front of Ahli’s defence. As the half-time whistle approached, a Holman shot deflected into the path of Ibrahima Toure and the Senegalese forward finished without fuss, but the linesman wrongly called it offside.

Holman was at the heart of all Nasr’s best work and his low drive across the box should have forced Saif Yousif into his first save of the match, but Luis Oliveira sent his effort over the bar. When the two players swapped roles shortly afterwards, Holman failed to get a solid touch on Oliveira’s cross and it rolled past the post.

“Throughout the game we controlled the pace,” Jovanovic said. “Ahli are a good team and made good chances when we lost the ball, but in general we were the better team on the field.”

The ineffective Lima was replaced at half-time, with Humaid Ahmed, but it almost backfired immediately when Ciel found Adnan Al Beloushi in acres of space, but the Emirati’s touch let him down and Abdulla was out quick to smother it.

The game had become stretched and moments after Oliveira’s strike from distance was touched wide for a corner, Al Beloushi did well at the opposite end to pick out Grafite, who should have done better with his close range header.

Nasr’s Hassan Mohammed, having just replaced Holman, should have scored with his first touch in the 84th minute, but sent his unmarked header over the bar from three yards. And a minute later the hosts were made to pay.

With a deep cross evading the goalkeeper, Nasr’s Hassan Ameen was forced to clear off the line, but as Ciel chased down the loose ball, he crumpled to the ground and the referee pointed to the spot. Replays suggested there was minimal if any contact, but the Brazilian picked himself up to slot past Abdulla.

“The penalty was the thing that decided the result,” Jovanovic said. “I haven’t had a chance to see it again, but I hope the referee was fair in his decision, because this decision decided the entire match.”

With Nasr chasing the game in the closing minutes, Al Baloushi capitalised on a defensive error and was able to take his time before lobbing the helpless Abdullah.

“Credit to Nasr, they played a good game and had had good chances,” Olaroiu said. “The only difference between the teams was that we maybe worked a little harder and believed we could win right up until the end.”

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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AL AIN 1 DUBAI 0

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Al Ain snatched victory with the last kick of the game to defeat Dubai 1-0 in the 97th minute at the Tahnoun bin Mohammed Stadium yesterday. The substitute Sultan Al Ghaferi tapped home to deal a cruel blow to a defensive Dubai side, giving the Garden City team 10 points in Group A and leaving Dubai bottom.

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AL WAHDA 0 SHARJAH 1

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Jose Peseiro, the new coach, will have a better idea of the task he faces at Al Wahda after seeing his side go down 1-0 at home to Sharjah in the League Cup last night. The Portuguese takes over from Karel Jarolim and watched Wahda lose thanks to a Ze Carlos penalty after 19 minutes for the visitors.

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