x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Diego Maradona adamant in defeat

Al Wasl are beaten 2-1 at home to struggling Dubai, but their Argentine coach pledges his future with the Pro League side.

Diego Maradona, the Al Wasl coach, had a bit of fun with photographers during yesterday’s 2-1 defeat to Dubai.
Diego Maradona, the Al Wasl coach, had a bit of fun with photographers during yesterday’s 2-1 defeat to Dubai.

DUBAI // Diego Maradona and Al Wasl's title dreams seem to be fading away fast. The Dubai club have now gone five games without a win and are in a free fall in the Pro League table.

To add to the club's woes, the team have been banned from playing at home and Maradona has been fined for criticising officials. The Argentine legend believes Wasl are being singled out and a mood of dejection surrounds the team and fans at the moment.

Maradona, however, is not ready to sever his relations with Wasl and UAE football.

He reiterated his promise to stay on after his side fell to a 2-1 defeat against a Dubai team that had not beaten any team in the competition before last night.

The pain of last night's defeat against Dubai, who stunned Wasl 5-0 in the Etisalat Cup earlier this season, was obvious on Maradona's face, but he said: "I still have the same desire and passion for this job that I had on the first day that I came here, and I am going to give it my all.

"I will continue to coach this team. I have a two-year contract and I am willing to see it through. I have to do this out of respect for the people who hired me and had faith in me. I hope I can repay some of their trust.

"I will sit down with my players and have a very serious talk with them about our plans and how to change things around."

Playing their "home" game at Al Shabab's ground after being penalised by the Football Association's Disciplinary Committee, Wasl seemed to be missing the atmosphere of the Zabeel Stadium. The club have been forced to play two home matches at neutral venues as league officials did not approve of their fans' act of burning flares in the stands.

Their 2-1 defeat at Al Wahda in the last match was probably preying on their mind as well as Wasl made a tentative start. They conceded the opener in the 22nd minute when Abou Baca Camara outjumped Yaser Salem to head home a Simon Pierre Feindouno free kick.

Dubai's lead, however, lasted less than two minutes as Wasl earned a penalty when Yousif Mohammed brought down Rashed Essa. Juan Manuel Olivera equalised from the spot.

But the visitors took the lead once again in the 36th minute when an unmanned Abbas Ahmed Atwi, the Lebanese making his debut in the Pro League, curled a volley home.

"We gave away the match today, that's quite obvious," Maradona said.

"We have been doing this for the past two matches, giving the ball back to our opponents, losing a lot of balls in the midfield and giving our opponents a chance to counter-attack.

"We had prepared well for the match. We knew Dubai depend on quick through balls, but we were not able to act on our plans in the middle.

"We will definitely make some changes to the formation. We will try to come back to usual levels in the next President's Cup match [against Wahda on Tuesday in Al Ain]."

Unlike Maradona, the Dubai coach Ayman Ramadi had no complaints about his players and saluted their resoluteness.

"It was a good game overall," said the Egyptian. "We knew Al Wasl are a team who fight till the end, so it was not easy for us. But the players stood strong till the end and all credit to them.

"We really needed a win to improve our position and I should thank the boys for these three points."

arizvi@thenational.ae

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