x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Errors at the back Al Wahda's undoing

Defensive naivety proved the downfall of Pro League champions as they missed the chance to meet European giants Inter Milan in the Club World Cup semi-finals.

Hamadan al Kamali, right, the Al Wahda defender, clears the ball during an attack by Seongnam. The defender was badly at fault, along with his goalkeeper, for at least two of the South Korean goals.
Hamadan al Kamali, right, the Al Wahda defender, clears the ball during an attack by Seongnam. The defender was badly at fault, along with his goalkeeper, for at least two of the South Korean goals.

Al Wahda 1 // Seongnam 4

Al Wahda Baiano 27’?
Seongnam Molina 04’, ?Ognenovski 30’, Choi Sung-kuk 71’, Cho Dong-geon 81’
Man of the match Mauricio Molina (Seongnam)

ABU DHABI // Defensive naivety proved the downfall of Pro League champions Al Wahda last night as they missed the chance to meet European giants Inter Milan in the Club World Cup semi-finals.

Two first-half errors either side of a Fernando Baiano header gave the Asian champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma a half-time lead, before Wahda's defence fell asleep twice in the space of 10 minutes in the second period to add a hint of humiliation to the end result.

"I am very disappointed because my team were not able to play their best," said Josef Hickersberger, the Wahda coach. "We have to admit Seongnam were the better side and deserved to win, even by this margin. We made too many defensive errors."

Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, was among the 30,625 who saw the game at the Zayed Sports City Stadium. Hickersberger fielded an unchanged team from the side that beat Hekari United 3-0 in the qualifying play-off on Wednesday.

Seongnam had qualified for the tournament by winning the Asian Champions League, while Hickerberger's side finished bottom during the same tournament's group stages.

Additionally, in the two previous all-Asian Club World Cup battles, teams from East Asia emerged victorious twice.

Yet Wahda did themselves few favours last night when, in only the fourth minute and after already experiencing two narrow escapes, a breakdown of communication in the backline saw them fall a goal behind.

Adel al Hosani, the goalkeeper, and Hamdan al Kamali, the centre-half, - at 21, the two youngest players in the Emirati side - failed to deal with a through ball. With al Hosani rushing out to collect, al Hamdan attempted to clear, but the ball landed at the feet of Mauricio Molina and with a free goal to aim at, the Colombian made no mistake with is finish.

It took Wahda 20 minutes before having any meaningful attempt at goal, but they were soon looking more threatening - courtesy mainly of Ismail Matar and Fernando Baiano combining well. Still, it came as a surprise when, in the 27th minute, the big Brazilian brilliantly headed home from a Eisa Ahmed cross.

The lead did not last long. Three minutes later al Hosani and al Kamali were again found wanting. The goalkeeper came to collect a Molina corner before changing his mind, and Sasa Ognenovski, Seongnam's Australian captain, comfortably outmuscled al Kamali to power a header past the stranded al Hosani.

"It doesn't help us or help them, but [al Hosani and Al Kamali] are young, so at least they now have international experience and for sure they will do better in the future," Hickersberger said.

In the 71st minute, woeful defending left Choi Sung-kuk entirely unmarked on the edge of the area, and with only the keeper to beat. He did so with aplomb.

Ten minutes later, Cho Dong-geon added a fourth, capitalising on poor marking from a Molina free kick to emphatically header Seongnam through to a last-four meeting with Rafa Benitez's Inter.

Wahda, meanwhile, have another match to play, against Pachuca of Mexico in the fifth-place match at 6pm on Wednesday.

Said Hickersberger: "The third goal killed the match and the morale of my players."

Shin Tae-yong, the Koreans' coach added: "Wahda did well, but as a team, they are a little weak."

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae