x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Pro League: Already relegated Kalba put up a dispirited fight against Al Shabab

Kalba arrived at a near-empty Rashid bin Maktoum Stadium with hardly anything to quicken the pulse, and a glance at the Shabab team sheet only accentuated their lethargy.

AL SHABAB 3 KALBA 2

Al Shabab R Hassan 64', 78', E Obaid 66'

Kalba A Ismail 32', A Al Jamhi 90'

 

DUBAI // So rare has a Kalba goal been this season, that when one comes along it tends to be greeted as if it has secured the Pro League title. Such was the celebration last night of Abdulaziz Ismail, after the visiting centre-back headed home against Al Shabab to give his side an unlikely first-half lead.

On face value it was a routine goal, yet cue piercing scream, vehement fist pump and an extended rejoicing with teammates. Perhaps he had been transported back to a faraway time, in some far-off playground, and had just guaranteed the UAE its first Fifa World Cup. A man can dream, can't he?

In the end, the goal carried little weight, especially when considered in the context of Kalba's 2012/13 campaign. Already relegated, Ze Mario's men arrived at a near-empty Rashid bin Maktoum Stadium with hardly anything to quicken the pulse, and a glance at the Shabab team sheet would only have accentuated their lethargy.

Omitted were the hosts' starriest names; next Wednesday's Asian Champions League clash with Esteghlal clearly occupying thoughts.

It mattered not, though. Kalba may have managed only 20 goals prior to this match - the league's lowest - but it is the defence that has proved their Achilles heel.

It was breached for the 70th time this season when on 77 minutes Rashid Hassan, the impressive winger, scored Shabab's third of the night, swiftly following efforts from Sanad Ali and Essa Obaid.

Kalba were subjected to defeat No 19. Old habits die hard.

"We didn't know how to win this game," said Ze Mario.

"If you stay calm and keep possession you can win, but we conceded a goal, started fighting among ourselves and during this period Shabab took the result."

While Shabab took the result, their youngsters collected the plaudits.

"In the first half we were a little disorganised, a bit rushed in possession," said Marcos Paqueta, the coach.

"But the second half was very courageous. The players fought to convert the result in their favour."

Kalba have two more matches before they slump back to Division One.

At least they had the last laugh here, Saeed Saif claiming a consolation with a minute remaining. It did not prompt quite the same celebration as Ismail's earlier strike.

 

jmcauley@thenational.ae

 

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