x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Diego Maradona's Al Wasl are 'on right path'

The Argentine manager is full of praise for his players, and delivers criticism of the English FA over the resignation of Fabio Capello.

Diego Maradona said his side were the better team.
Diego Maradona said his side were the better team.

DUBAI // Two days after apparent disgruntlement came a night of pure merriment last evening for Diego Maradona and Al Wasl.

Another win left Al Wasl elevated equal on points to fourth placed Al Shabab and the mercurial manager both hugging his players in sequence on the pitch and extolling the state of the club in the press room thereafter.

"Al Wasl is on the right path," he said. "We have seen a great performance. We see a fighting spirit."

To that, he all but winked as he closed his remarks by adding, "If anyone sees the chairman, please tell him I'd like to talk to him. I have a few words."

The comment drew laughter and turned out to be Maradona's lone allusion to his complaint earlier this week, when he pleaded for more funds to buy more players.

After Al Wasl got Juan Olivera's goal on 18 minutes, they held off a Baniyas side that manager Gabriel Calderon thought were the better side in the second half.

Maradona disagreed. "It was a very good match," he said.

"It was actually a big game today for Al Wasl especially. Al Wasl was clearly the better team."

In particular, the Argentine lauded his three new midfield starters, saying, "Yes, they all deserve to be starters."

He complimented Juan Mercier for "showing great performance," Fahad Hadeed for "maturing every game" and Khalifa Abdulla for being "not a very big man or muscular but he's definitely an amazing player with exceptional skills."

The waning minutes did feature hairy moments with Maradona looking anguished awaiting the whistle.

He said of the five added minutes: "This is unfair and this is not the first time it has happened to us."

He lamented the lack of a handball call that could have supplied a 2-0 lead. He dismissed suggestions of Al Wasl's luck with referees by saying, "That is absolutely untrue. We never get any help from the refs, actually."

Maradona also chuckled over a question about his potential interest in the suddenly vacant England managerial job, beginning his answer with: "Absolutely not," before going on to suggest the English FA was using the John Terry situation as an excuse for a departure it long since wished to see.

Maradona, who joined England's outgoing Fabio Capello in losing to Germany decisively at the 2010 World Cup, said Capello "can clearly say that the English FA were looking to fire him and looking for a way to do that".

Maradona soon added: "Basically it all comes down to him not meeting their expectations."

 

cculpepper@thenational.ae