x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Pinga penalty pain for Nasr

Pinga's last-minute penalty grants Josef Hickersberger his first point as Al Wahda manager as they steal a late 1-1 draw at Al Nasr.

DUBAI // Pinga's last-minute penalty granted Josef Hickersberger his first point as Al Wahda boss as they stole a late 1-1 draw at Al Nasr. The Abu Dhabi side, who have been struggling so far in the inaugural UAE Pro League, were fully deserving of their share of the spoils. However, it was more penalty heartache for Nasr, who held the lead through Mohammed Omar up until the final minute of the game.

The Dubai side were still feeling the effects of what they felt was a harsh penalty award against Al Jazira last time out. Luka Bonacic, their manager, was fined in the fall-out after that ill-tempered affair and he is unlikely to have been appeased by the late drama here. Their indiscipline bubbled over again, when Mohammed Nosrati, their towering Iranian centre-half, was sent off for kicking the ball away in protest at the penalty award. Wahda's appeals were upheld after Ismail Matar, the otherwise out of sorts Wahda playmaker, was tripped in the box by Fahad Sabel Obaid.

Omar had struck the opener immediately after the second-half kicked off, bundling home from close range after his strike partner, Mohammed Ibrahim, saw a volley pawed away by Ali Rabi Fairoz in the Wahda goal. The veteran striker could have been celebrating his hat-trick, having earlier passed up the two best chances of an otherwise dour first-half. He shot wide eight minutes into the game, despite having the goal at his mercy after he charged down a botched clearance by Fairoz. Soon after he out-sprinted a pedestrian Wahda backline, only to drag his shot wide of the left upright, under pressure from the advancing goalkeeper.

While the tireless Omar continued to prove that his international retirement may have been somewhat premature, his former national team attacking partner, Matar, was less prominent. The performance of Matar, Wahda's celebrated UAE forward, came in stark contrast to the last time he turned out at Nasr's intimate Maktoum Stadium. On that night, when the UAE's hopes of World Cup qualification were all but extinguished after a draw with Iran, Matar was the stand-out performer.

He was eventually thwarted then, and his ineffectiveness against Nasr was again due to an Iranian, Nosrati. Nosrati, who was one of Bonacic's first signings when he took over the managerial reins at Nasr in the summer, shackled Matar robustly. He earned himself a yellow card for one solid lunge at him in the second phase, then sealed his fate when he punted the ball into the stands after the referee pointed to the spot. As the Abu Dhabi side had earlier pressed for the equaliser, they were denied what appeared a certain penalty after Mohammed Saeed, the striker, was upended by the home goalkeeper Abdulla Mousa. Soon after, Karim bin Hassan, the central midfielder who was Wahda's best player, saw his header saved. The visitors proceeded to spurn a glut of good chances, but Hickersberger, the former Austria boss, was finally afforded to celebrate late on.