x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Night of frustration for Ahli

Not only were they held by the promoted side Kalba, the Italian international Fabio Cannavaro saw his third yellow card and was suspended for one match.

Kalba's Rashid Malullah heads the ball during the  2-2 draw with Al Ahli last night.
Kalba's Rashid Malullah heads the ball during the 2-2 draw with Al Ahli last night.

KALBA // It was a night of firsts for the newly promoted side Kalba, who earned their first Pro League point in their first Pro League home match, drawing 2-2 with Al Ahli yesterday before 1,282 fans. The game ended unprofitably twice over for Ahli; not only were they held by a promoted side, the Italian international Fabio Cannavaro saw his third yellow card and was suspended for one match. Ahli's defence sagged in the 72nd minute, and that was enough to squander a 2-1 lead.

Simon Feindouno found himself free on the right of the box, and his inch-perfect cross skittered unaccosted to Gregory Dunfrennes at the goalmouth alongside only one defender. Dunfrennes' ensuing strike became his second goal of the match, his first having come in the opening minute from the spot after a handball in the box. From that 72nd minute, Al Ahli mounted most of the threats, but the Kalba goalkeeper, Mohamed Osman Salim, never had to resort to the spectacular.

His side had given up goals in the third and 25th minutes, both to Andre Luciano da Silva, which deflated the Kalba side of the grandstand somewhat while energising visiting Al Ahli fans, who sustained music and drumbeats throughout the second half. "I thought they deserved the result, but I'm very disappointed in my team," said David O'Leary, the Al Ahli manager. "Yes, we have injuries but we're nowhere near to the standard if we're going to go places. But I'm learning. It's my third game so I'm learning, and I'm learning about the players as well." He added: "No disrespect to this gentleman" - meaning the Kalba manager Ednacio Patricio - "but good teams come here and win matches. "We didn't deserve more than we got but tonight we lose two points."

In the four minutes of added time, a visibly frustrated Cannavaro, the former Fifa Player of the Year and Al Ahli's high-profile signing in the off-season, dribbled through two defenders near midfield only to topple next to Kalba's Abdullah Fatadi. When referee Abdulwahid al Hammadi awarded Kalba a free kick, Cannavaro pleaded with the referee until al Hammadi served Cannavaro with a yellow card - his third in three matches.

The Kalba side appeared happy about the result. "I would like to say that all the team fought," said Patricio. "I like my team because each one gave everything that he has." @Email:cculpepper@thenational.ae Man of the match: Gregory Dunfrennes (Kalba)