x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Concern for Al Wahda coach as Diarra ends Emirates' losing streak

Two failures to get three points against lowly teams is cause for concern to Josef Hickersberger.

Ismail Matar scored for Al Wahda but the Abu Dhabi club could only manage a draw.
Ismail Matar scored for Al Wahda but the Abu Dhabi club could only manage a draw.

ABU DHABI // Lotfi Al Benzarti hopes his Emirates team's battling 2-2 draw with Al Wahda last night marks a turning point in their season.

The Tunisian took charge of the struggling Ras Al Khaimah club last month and was delighted they were able to claim their first point from 10 Pro League matches. “It is indeed a good result for us,” Al Benzarti said.

“We have lost nine matches in a row and travelled with the intention of not losing, and we achieved that tonight.

“This result can certainly revive our battle to improve our position in the second half of the league.

“The next objective would be to win some games. I think we have made the right choices in strengthening the team in attack by signing Modibo Diarra. We still have some improvement to be done at the back. So I am hopeful after this result.”

Diarra was in the thick of the action against his former club.

The Ivorian forward created the opening goal for Abdullah Al Shehhi and, after Fernando Baiano levelled the scores with his ninth goal in seven games in all competitions, Diarra headed an Ismail Matar corner in to his own net for the home side to go into the break leading 2-1.

However, with five minutes remaining, Diarra made amends when he darted in to finish off a counter-attack. Diarra said in a post-match television interview: “Yes, it was special, this game, because it was my old club.”

Can this be a turning point for Emirates? “We have so many young players, and they can grow, and I hope to help them stay in this division,” the striker said.

Josef Hickersberger, the Wahda coach, said: “We are very disappointed because we didn’t achieve our objectives in the home games against the bottom teams.

“We failed to win three points against Dubai and now we have failed against Emirates. If we can’t achieve good results against such teams we have very little chances to stay in the league race.

“We had a poor first half. We had seven players in the defence and they were all ball-watching when conceding the opening goal.”

Hickersberger said that his midfield, which was without the Brazilians Hugo (suspended) and Magrao (injured), did not look good. “We didn’t move the ball well and also left a lot of space for the opponents,” he said.

“We have had problems from the beginning but I thought we did play well in some of the recent games to feel confident of winning three points against Emirates. But that didn’t happen.”

apassela@thenational.ae