x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

League Cup semi-final berth slips from Baniyas’ grasp

Loss at Dubai and Al Jazira's defeat of Al Wahda send Baniyas out of top two

Khalid Hussain Hassan Jama, right, of Dubai eludes a Baniyas defender's challenge during their League Cup match at Dubai Club Stadium on March 2, 2014. Al Ittihad
Khalid Hussain Hassan Jama, right, of Dubai eludes a Baniyas defender's challenge during their League Cup match at Dubai Club Stadium on March 2, 2014. Al Ittihad

DUBAI // Baniyas’ season is in a downward spiral. If three consecutive defeats in the Arabian Gulf League and the four-goal loss to Kuwaiti club Al Qadsia in the Asian Champions League play-off were not enough evidence, their performance against a Dubai reserve team on Sunday night should be a confirmation.

Dubai are a team languishing at the bottom of the league table, with only nine points, and they had just one point from five previous League Cup matches. With nothing to play for, the hosts decided to field a reserve team.

And that must have enthused Baniyas. The Abu Dhabi team were looking for a win to confirm their place in the semi-finals of the League Cup, alongside Sharjah. Even a draw would have sufficed, provided that Al Jazira lost to Al Wahda at home in the other Group A match.

However, looking ragged and uninspired, the visitors crumbled to a 2-1 defeat with their sole bright spot of the 90 minutes being Luis Farina’s equaliser, four minutes after Ahmed Yousuf had opened the score in the 14th minute. There seemed to be no urgency in their play after that, and Mohammed Ibrahim made sure they returned home embarrassed with a sharp finish in the 69th minute.

“I really wanted us to win this match, because it would have given us a big boost moving forward,” said a disappointed Adnan Hamad, who has lost all three matches since replacing Jorge da Silva as the Baniyas manager last month.

“Unfortunately, the players showed no spirit, focus or character on the pitch. I did not see any commitment from my players. In fact, when Dubai scored their first goal, I was happy because I thought that would jolt my team out of their slumber, but that never happened.

“The players seem to be suffering from a lack of belief at the moment and we need time to get them out of this phase. We have a few days now before the next game and we will work hard to correct our problems.”

The hosts, with no hopes of advancing, decided to rest virtually their entire first team. Only three players from their starting XI in their last league match against Al Jazira – Jabir Abdullah, Ahmed Yousuf and Yousuf Hassan – were on the pitch last night.

The club’s four foreign professionals were not and, with the manager Umberto Barberis on his way out, according to club sources, his assistant Salem Rabea assumed the coaching duties.

Baniyas had virtually an unchanged squad, except for Mohammed Fawzi and Haboush Saleh, who are on UAE national team duty. Given the difference in experience between the two teams, the visitors should have been in control and dictating play.

Instead, they looked jaded, struggling to string together any significant moves and, in the end, the result looked anything but a shock.

A delighted Rabea saluted his young players after the game.

“The players did everything we asked of them,” he said. “They are young players with a lot of heart and showed a lot of spirit in the middle. Ahmed Yousuf and Mohammed Ibrahim were outstanding, and I believe they have a very good future ahead of them. They can play against any team. They have the confidence and the right attitude.”

Results fall just right for Al Jazira

Al Jazira booked their place in the League Cup semi-finals thanks to a 1-0 win over Abu Dhabi rivals Al Wahda, securing second place in Group A at the expense of Baniyas. January signing Ismail Al Jasmi scored the only goal to send Walter Zenga’s side through.

They join already-qualified Sharjah, who cemented their place at the top of the group with a 1-0 victory over city rivals Al Shaab, courtesy of Salim Khalfan Saif’s strike. Mohammed Ahmed was sent off in the 54th minute for Shaab.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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