x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Naser saves the day for Al Wasl and tense Maradona

A goal down to a 2-1 lead, only to be denied of three points in the injury time of a rollercoaster of a game.

Al Wasl’s Rashed Essa, centre, is outjumped by Al Nasr goalscorer Rodrigo Vergilio, left, last night.
Al Wasl’s Rashed Essa, centre, is outjumped by Al Nasr goalscorer Rodrigo Vergilio, left, last night.

DUBAI // Al Wasl brought Al Nasr's four-game winning streak in the Pro League to an end last night, but could get no more than a point from a hard-fought derby at the Zabeel Stadium.

Having drubbed Al Ahli 4-0 in their previous game, a President's Cup match, Wasl seemed a tad overconfident at the start, and Rodrigo Vergilio took advantage to give Nasr a sixth-minute lead.

Mariano Donda equalised for the home side two minutes from the break and Ahmed Darwish then put them ahead on the hour mark.

Five minutes into injury time, however, a poorly timed Fahad Masoud kick caught Yunus Ahmed in the face and Linardo Lima equalised from the resulting penalty.

A lively crowd had turned up for this derby game between the two rivals. Though Wasl had the numbers with them, the Nasr fans made sure their presence did not go unnoticed, screaming their lungs out to match the din created by the home fans.

A spectacular fireworks display greeted Diego Maradona and the two teams as they walked on to the pitch for the game, and it took a few minutes to clear the playing arena off all the confetti that had been sprayed by the fans.

The game started seven minutes late and six minutes into it, the Wasl fans were stunned into silence; Maradona, jovial before the game, sat in the dugout with a disturbed look on his face after Vergilio was responsible for the mood change.

The Brazilian scored a brilliant goal from an improbable position to give Nasr the lead. He sidestepped a challenge from Waheed Ismail and outmuscled Mariano Donda before unleashing a stinging volley wide of a diving Wasl goalkeeper Majed Naser.

Seconds later, Juan Manuel Olivera almost levelled the score, but for a brilliant reflex save by Nasr goalkeeper Abdulla Moosa.

Richard Porta was then denied by the crossbar in the 20th minute when he tried to flick over the keeper in a goalmouth melee. Maradona could scarcely believe his luck.

Three minutes later, Moosa showed great anticipation to keep an Olivera header out.

Nasser did the same at the other end in the 30th minute to deny Amara Diane.

A minute later, Wasl captain Eissa Ali showed really poor finishing, blasting the ball wide from close range.

As Wasl struggled with their final touch, Nasr packed their defence with numbers and looked good to carry their one-goal lead into the break, but a magical Donda denied them that pleasure with two minutes remaining on the clock.

The Argentine made his typical short burst across the pitch, just outside the box, and blasted the ball towards the goal while still on the run. A deflection off Helal Saeed left the Nasr keeper Moosa stranded, and the Wasl fans were celebrating again.

Maradona was, however, still tense as the teams came back from the break. He sat on the bench biting his nails as the game resumed.

A Darwish volley in the 48th minute, blocked by Moosa, must have eased some of his concerns.

Two minutes later, though, he must have been pained again to see the amount of space given to Diane as he received a Mark Bresciano cross. Fortunately for the Wasl fans, Naser was in position to keep the header out.

Diane managed to weave his way past the Wasl defenders again in the 55th minute, but Naser came to the home team's rescue yet again, diving low to his left to keep the ball out.

As the game kept swinging from one end to the other, Darwish gave his busy goalkeeper a breather with Wasl's second goal of the night in the 60th minute.

As Donda floated the ball over the crowded box from a free kick on the left, Darwish bulged the net with a diving header.

Lima's injury-time equaliser, however, made sure Nasr return home with a point from the game.