x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Draw bittersweet for Al Wahda

Hosts come from behind to draw 1-1 against Al Ain, the reigning Arabian Gulf League champions, writes Amith Passela.

Al Ain, in white, had the upper hand in Abu Dhabi before Al Wahda equalised. Satish Kumar / The National
Al Ain, in white, had the upper hand in Abu Dhabi before Al Wahda equalised. Satish Kumar / The National

Karel Jarolim compared the Al Wahda game against Al Ain to the Jeddah derby between his former club in Saudi Arabia, Al Ahli, when it played rival Al Ittihad.

That game sometimes drew more than 30,000 fans, and Friday night’s match at the 12,000-capacity Al Nahyan Stadium was 80 per cent full as Wahda held Al Ain in a 1-1 spectacle.

Michel Bastos put the visitors ahead soon after the break and Marco Estrada, the Chile midfielder playing in only his second match after returning from a groin injury, struck the equaliser nine minutes later.

Jarolim felt Wahda missed out on an opportunity to win three points after dominating much of the game and creating more scoring opportunities than the two-time champions.

“It is hard to win when you can’t score from all that chances we created, particularly in the first half,” the Czech manager said.

“Still, we must give credit to the players as they fought until the end to share a point. It was an excellent game that I am sure the crowd must have enjoyed, although we fell short of winning all three points.”

Bastos scored in the 47th minute. The Brazilian volleyed a low shot powerfully from a clearance that fell into his path to send the visiting fans into celebration.

Their joy was short-lived. Estrada was on target with a free kick from the left flank, a ball that bounced and beat everyone in front of a crowded goalmouth.

The result means Quique Sanchez Flores, the Al Ain coach, extends his unbeaten run to four games in all competitions since taking charge of the Garden City Club three weeks ago.

“Under the circumstances, we are satisfied returning with a point from this game, but our intentions are always to win three points from every game,” the Spaniard said.

“We lost a lot of possession in the first half and Wahda made a lot of counterattacks. Wahda gave a good impression on the night. We will regroup after this game and just keep working harder for the next.”

Wahda played an attacking game to reduce the pressure on a back four missing three suspended defenders, Hamdan Al Kamali, Eisa Ahmed and the Kuwait international Hussain Fadhel.

They created three early chances and could have scored at least once, had Ismail Matar been spot on when he had only Dawoud Sulaiman, the Al Ain goalkeeper, to beat after being set up inside the box by Mahmoud Khamis.

Elsewhere, the Brazilians Ze Carlos and Fellype Gabriel scored in added time as Sharjah snatched victory from Dubai, 2-1. The hosts had taken the lead on a 65th-minute goal by the Mali striker Dramane Traore.

Ajman got three goals from Boris Kabi, the Ivorian striker, to defeat Al Wasl 4-2. The visitors were led by Saleem Abdelrahman, Wasl’s interim manager.

Kamel Chafni’s goal just before the break levelled for Al Dhafra and they withstood the 59th-minute sending off of Hassan Zahran to divide the points with Al Jazira, who got a 37th-minute goal from Nelson Valdez in coach Luis Milla’s last game.