x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Ismail Matar joins Al Wahda's casualty list

UAE striker injures knee but Pro League side coach Branko Ivankovic confident hosts can beat Al Ahli despite setback.

Ismail Matar, the Al Wahda striker, has flown to Germany to get treatment on his knee, adding to coach Branko Ivankovic's woes. Courtesy Al Ittihad
Ismail Matar, the Al Wahda striker, has flown to Germany to get treatment on his knee, adding to coach Branko Ivankovic's woes. Courtesy Al Ittihad

ABU DHABI // Lightning seems to have struck twice at Al Wahda as the Abu Dhabi club are facing an injury crisis for the second season in a row.

Ismail Matar, the captain, is the latest high-profile player to join the casualty list.

The UAE international forward has flown to Germany for treatment on a troubled knee after aggravating the injury in the 4-1 away defeat to Al Nasr last week.

"It is hard to know the extent of the injury and the time he would take to be back in action without a medical report," said Branko Ivankovic, the Wahda coach.

"Ismail has been playing many times with a pain because of his injuries and it all depends on what he decides when he returns from the treatment which he has been doing with a specialist in Germany."

Wahda's injury woes began during their pre-season camp with Eric Mouloungui, the newly signed Gabon international, suffering an ankle injury that ruled him out for the first half of the season.

Mahmoud Khamis and Mohammed Shaibah, the Oman international, were then sidelined with both yet to play a competitive game. Salem Saleh, Salem Jasim, and now Matar have all joined them on the treatment table.

Wahda's 2011/12 season was hindered by the losses of key players, with each of their Brazilian trio missing time at some point.

Fernando Baiano and Hugo both missed the start of the campaign, along with Matar, Mohammed Al Shehhi and Haider Ali.

Magaro, the midfielder now with Dubai, spent most of the second half of the season on the sidelines.

Those absences contributed to Wahda's slow start which saw them finish down in sixth place in the Pro League, missing out on the Asian Champions League.

"It is bad luck for us that so many players are injured. I think we still have done quite well and we will continue to work on the same lines to achieve good results," Ivankovic said.

Wahda meet Al Ahli tonight at the Al Nahyan Stadium and the coach was confident his team will bounce back from last week's 4-1 defeat by Al Nasr.

"Without any doubt Ahli are a good team and we are expecting a very hard and tough match, but up to now we have shown we can play against any opposition," the Croatian said.

"We need to play with full concentration, full power and high motivation. This is something normal if we want good results. It is unfortunate we have so many injuries but I have full trust on my players that they will give maximum on the pitch.

"There is nothing to worry about the last game because Nasr were runners up last season. We did some individual mistakes in that game and we are now looking ahead for a big game against Ahli."

Ivankovic is expecting his defence to be fully tested by the likes of Grafite and Achille Emana, the Brazilian and Cameroonian forwards, Luis Jimenez, the Chilean midfielder, and Ismail Al Hammadi, the Emirati international.

"Our defence has been pretty solid in a majority of the matches but we definitely can't repeat those mistakes we did in the last game against a strong attack Ahli have," Ivankovic said.

apassela@thenational.ae

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