x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Diego Maradona wants an injection of quality at Al Wasl

The Argentine has called on the Al Wasl management to deliver on their promise of reinforcing the team after his side crashed to another defeat against their nemeses Dubai in the Etisalat Cup.

DUBAI // Diego Maradona has called on the Al Wasl management to deliver on their promise of reinforcing the team after his side crashed to another defeat against their nemeses Dubai last night.

Dubai may be staring at relegation from the Pro League, but they clearly have the measure of Maradona's men and they embarrassed the Argentine legend for the third time in as many games, scoring three in the final 15 minutes of the Etisalat Cup match for a thumping 3-0 win.

Maradona had fielded his reserve team for the game, but was forced to include Mohammed Reza Khalatbari and Fahad Masood on the bench after struggling to find enough quality players to fill the spots.

"I had difficulty in completing the substitute bench," Maradona said. "Khalatbari and Masood were also not supposed to play, but due to the lack of quality players to complete the squad, I had to bring them in on the substitutes' bench.

"I would like the management and Mr Marwan bin Bayat [chairman of Al Wasl Football Company] to know this. He needs to take care of his good players and if any one of them gets injured, it will be really difficult finding replacements.

"The management know about this, but they have not made the reinforcements they were supposed to. They said six players will be brought into the team [during the ongoing winter transfer window], but only two have come till now - Abdullah Abdulrehman and Fahad Hadid."

Dubai, the Pro League's bottom placed team, had drubbed Maradona's men 5-0 in the first leg of the Etisalat Cup and beaten them 2-1 in the Pro League, but the Wasl manager decided on resting his top stars, as he does not see his team advancing to the next round.

The Argentine midfielder Juan Ignacio Mercier was the lone foreigner to start as Maradona gave his Emirati talents a run. The Argentine legend, however, said he was left disappointed by what he saw.

"This match was a test for some of the players, to see the type of skills they have and to make an assessment about the players we have in the reserve team," he said. "I gave instructions to the players, but they failed to follow them on the pitch. So there will be changes because I need players who can execute my plans."

Frustrated with his team's performance, Maradona felt compelled to turn to Khalatbari, and the Iranian took to the pitch in the 70th minute, replacing Hamad Al Hosani on the left wing.

Five minutes after the change, though, Dubai took the lead with Hassan Mohammed heading in a cross from Nicolas Marin, the French midfielder Dubai signed this month.

Marin should have doubled that tally in the 80th minute but with only the Wasl goalkeeper Rashid Ali to beat, he shot straight at him. Simon-Pierre Feindouno did make it 2-0 for the visitors five minutes later with a low shot that the goalkeeper really should have stopped.

Two minutes later, the score was 3-0 as Ali Hassan sprinted clear of the Wasl defence to volley home a deflected ball.

"It was an important win for us because we now have a chance of finishing second [in Group A]," said Ayman Al Ramadi, Dubai's Egyptian coach. His team are second in the group now with 12 points, four behind Al Jazira. The top two from each group qualify for the semi-finals on March 11.

"This win is also important because it will serve to motivate the players in the league," he added.

arizvi@thenational.ae