x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Diego Maradona says Al Shabab fans are cowards

The Al Wasl coach reacts angrily after the final whistle when he sees his partner in tears following a melee in the stands.

Diego Maradona, the Al Wasl coach,  was involved in a melee with Al Shabab fans after the match.
Diego Maradona, the Al Wasl coach, was involved in a melee with Al Shabab fans after the match.

DUBAI // Diego Maradona had to be escorted back to the dressing room by the police after his side's 2-0 defeat to Al Shabab after the Argentine waded into the stands to confront home supporters.

The incident occurred after some light-hearted banter between a friend of Maradona, who was watching the match from the stands along with the Al Wasl coach's partner, Veronica Ajeda, and the Shabab supporters turned ugly.

An angry melee ensued in the stands that reduced Maradona's ex-wife to tears.

Maradona, who had just watched his side lose to their Dubai rivals courtesy of a Yaser Salem own goal and a Ciel penalty, looked up to see the fracas and promptly ran up to the stands to confront the Shabab fans.

Police were quickly on the scene to defuse the situation, escorting the Al Wasl coach away before disbursing the angry mob.

In his post-match press conference, a clearly upset Maradona said: "I'm not happy with what happened. I was not against ... the fans. I was only there to defend my wife."

He added: "We accept everything in football, but do not accept men swear at women. They [the Shabab fans] are cowards.

"I do not care where I am in the stadium or outside, it does not allow for anyone to verbally abuse my wife."

It was the fourth consecutive win for Paulo Bonamigo's men in the league and it takes their tally to 33 points, which is one more than champions Al Jazira, who lost earlier in the evening at Emirates. Al Ain are on top with 39 points and they will be looking to add to that lead tonight when they host Baniyas.

A Yaser Salem own goal in the final minute of the first half opened the scores and Shabab doubled their tally through a penalty four minutes from time, when Suroor Salem was brought down by Wasl goalkeeper Ahmed Mahmoud. Ciel converted from the spot.

With Maradona's two South American recruits, Mariano Donda and Juan Manuel Olivera, having an off day, Wasl looked to the Iran international Mohammed Reza Khalatbari to provide the attacking threat.

Missing three important players through injuries - Uzbek Azizbek Haydarov, Essa Obaid and Issa Mohammed - Shabab seemed to be at a disadvantage, but that notion was dispelled by a blistering run and volley from Ciel four minutes in.

Ciel, who was mainly deployed on the right touchline closest to the stand housing the Wasl fans, never seemed flustered by the jeers he received every time he had the ball at his feet. If anything, the boos only seemed to spur him on.

At the other end, Khalatbari brought the travelling fans to their feet in the 21st minute with a volley that unsettled the Shabab keeper Salem Abdulla.

While the Shabab defence managed to keep the Uruguayan striker Olivera in check, the diminutive Khalatbari was buzzing around the back-four, rarely giving any defender a moment's peace.

The half seemed headed for a goalless finish as the defence on both sides held firm. With seconds remaining on the clock, however, Wasl conceded an own goal with captain Yaser Salem deflecting a Ciel free kick into the net.

Wasl came out more resolute after the break and Khalatbari almost levelled the scores in the 47th minute, but the Shabab keeper managed to deflect his volley away for a corner.

From the resulting kick, Rashed Essa managed to prod home Olivera's header, but the UAE Olympic team player's effort was ruled out for off-side.

Khalatbari used clever footwork to dazzle the Shabab defence on 66 minutes before threading the ball through to put Essa in the clear. Perhaps the young Emirati was afforded too much time, as his effort was only successful in rattling the crossbar.

Shabab broke with Kieza down the right and the Brazilian centred the ball for his compatriot Ciel, but Mahmoud managed to get to the cross before the striker to snuff out the chance.

Ciel scored Shabab's second goal from the penalty spot after Salem Saleh had been brought down in the box.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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