x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Coach Calderon rues missing players after Tia double sinks Baniyas

Ajman's 2-1 win takes the Pro League club to seventh in the table.

SHAHAMA // If the promoted side Ajman stay in the top flight, they may look back to their 2-1 victory at Baniyas on Sunday night as a turning point.

The hosts were depleted by injury and national-team duty, as well as administrative issues that kept Francisco Yeste off the pitch, and Ajman rode on two early goals and desperate defence to move eight points clear of the drop zone.

"We know that is not the normal Baniyas team," said Abdulwahab Abdulkader, Ajman's coach. "We know they are missing four or five players. But I thank my players for winning three points, because one point would have been a victory."

Baniyas were missing nearly their entire midfield, with Amer Abdulrahman, Haboush Saleh and Mohammed Fowzi off with the UAE Olympic team, as was the defender Mohammed Jaber.

Gabriel Calderon, the coach, particularly rued the absence of Saleh and Jaber, whom he believes are unlikely to play for the Olympic side. "For the future of the players, it is better for them to play here with us than to go to a match in the second team in Saudi Arabia," he said.

Baniyas also missed Yeste, the Spaniard who had been signed after Olympiakos of Greece released him. Yeste was sitting in the stand because his registration had not been completed in time. Baniyas officials said the Greek federation was slow in forwarding documents, and Yeste missed the 72-hour deadline by 12 hours.

Still, had not Baniyas conceded two goals in the first 10 minutes to Olivier Tia, the Ivorian who had been a disappointment to Ajman with only one first team goal in 11 appearances, they could easily have won. One of the goals came after a gaffe by Ismael Bouzid, Baniyas's new Algerian full-back.

"The problem was, we lost from the beginning," Calderon said. "We gave a gift of two goals to the Ajman team. We had talked about doing our best from the beginning."

Andre Senghor pulled one back in the 15th minute, and Baniyas dominated play for the final hour but squandered chances, and also encountered the indomitable Ali Mesmari in the Ajman goal, as he turned in several fine saves.

The win lifts Ajman to 15 points, two ahead of Baniyas, but Abdulkader does not yet feel another season in the league is assured. "Fifteen points is not safety," he said. "We need to work for more."


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