x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Gabriel Calderon's fury at Neill's 'rugby foul'

The Argentine coach says his side were the better team, and credits Jazira's goalkeeper with the win.

Gabriel Calderon, the Baniyas head coach, was angry as the match officials.
Gabriel Calderon, the Baniyas head coach, was angry as the match officials.

ABU DHABI // Gabriel Calderon was not a happy man. He felt as if his Baniyas side had dominated the President's Cup final but had been damaged, first, by the referee, and only then by an opportunistic Al Jazira side.

It was Jazira who emerged with a 3-1 victory in the cup final last night before more than 38,000 fans at Zayed Sports City.

Calderon was most agitated by the first Jazira goal. He said the sixth-minute strike by Lucas Neill, was the result of a "rugby play".

"He took our man," Calderon said, reaching with both hands for the interpreter sitting at his side, "and went like this", demonstrating a throwing motion.

Neill was unmarked when he scored, and the Baniyas defender, Sultan Al Ghaferi, was on the ground.

"If you give the other side the first goal in a final, it's difficult, difficult," Calderon said. "It was a rugby foul, not a little foul. It's terrible. Terrible."

By his count, Jazira had three chances and scored on all of them, while his side managed only one goal from six good attempts, including painfully narrow misses by both Andre Senghor, the tall Senegalese striker, and the Spanish midfielder Francisco Yeste.

He said the result was not a fair one, and would reflect incorrectly on his team's performance.

"If someone heard only the score and did not see the match, they would think Baniyas is a very bad team, but the fact is that Baniyas was the better team," he said. "The result does not reflect that. All our players played very well."

The Argentine, a former international teammate of Diego Maradona, the Al Wasl coach, played down Jazira's scoring prowess and gave credit only to Ali Kasheif, the Jazira goalkeeper. "The goalkeeper was the best player for Al Jazira," he said. "He's responsible for the result. He deserves the credit."

He said Baniyas, which counts several Olympic team members in their ranks, including Ahmed Ali, Amer Abdulrahman and Mohammed Fawzi, are the team with the brighter prospects.

This season, however, the club is languishing in ninth place in the league, and their chances of playing in the Asian Champions League next year were extinguished by their failure to win the President's Cup.

"The future is for Baniyas," Calderon said. "If Jazira continue to play like this, they will not be this good for very long. The future is for Baniyas; for Jazira, not so much."

He lauded the thousands of Baniyas fans whose powder-blue scarves seemed the dominant colour in the stands.

"Thanks to the fans for Baniyas," he said. "I hoped we could win the cup for them, because so many of them came so far to see the match. My message is: wait for the future."

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

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