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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Diego Maradona bemoans Fujairah's bad luck but declares: 'I'm happy with my players'

Mohammed Khalfan's first-half effort cancelled out by dubious Al Orouba penalty

Diego Maradona bemoaned Fujairah’s lack of good fortune as his side opened the First Division season on Saturday with a 1-1 draw at home to Al Orouba.

The Argentine, appointed in May, watched on as his new club relinquished a first-half advantage at the Fujairah Stadium, pegged back by an Orouba penalty 20 minutes from time.

Fujairah had taken the lead on 26 minutes, when Gonzalo Bravo’s pinpoint cross found Mohammed Khalfan in the opposition penalty area. The striker did not quite connect with his header, although he did just enough to put the hosts in front.

Fujairah then struck the woodwork twice before half time, once through Muhanad Khamis’ fierce free kick and once when Khalfan poked the ball past the onrushing Orouba goalkeeper.

However, Fujairah were ultimately made to pay for spurning their chances midway through the second half. With little ground conceded after the break, Orouba were awarded a dubious penalty on 69 minutes when defender Helal Saeed slid to block a shot, the ball ricocheting off his leg and glancing his arm. Ahmed Sameer made no mistake from the spot.

From there, the match petered out to a draw, much to the disappointment of the reported 1,050 spectators in the stands.

“We could have scored more than three goals in the first half to make the match easier for us and more comfortable, but because we didn’t score we suffered in the second half,” a visibly frustrated Maradona said afterwards. “In this, we didn’t have the luck.

“We hit the frame of the goal two times. We were unlucky, but sometimes when you don’t have the luck the ball will never go inside the goal.”

Maradona, who celebrated his 57th birthday earlier this week, said he could not see the infringement that led to the penalty, but that his players were adamant a spot-kick should never have been awarded.

The former World Cup winner did, though, urge his team to build on the result going forward. Fujairah are attempting to gain promotion to the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) this season having last competed in the UAE top flight in the 2015/16 campaign.

Last season, they finished fourth in the First Division. Maradona, who has not managed since spending 14 months at Dubai’s Al Wasl from May 2011, has been given a one-year contract, although there exists an option to renew should he guide Fujairah to the AGL. Only the top two teams at the conclusion of the campaign are guaranteed promotion.

“We lost two points but we have time to recover those,” Maradona said. “We have so many matches to come. This is only the beginning of the season, so it’s not the end of the world. We have to recover the points in our next matches.

“We made some mistakes today, but in general I’m very happy with my players.”

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