An injury time winner for Sharjah against arch rivals Al Shaab in their play-off encounter leaves Sergio Alexandre's men needing victory in their final game to guarantee promotion.
Referee mistake 'destroyed everything', claims angry Al Shaab coach
Sharjah 1 Al Shaab 0
DUBAI // Sergio Alexandre has promised a fight until the final seconds of the play-offs after Al Shaab's hopes of returning to the Pro League suffered a major blow last night with an agonising injury-time loss to arch rivals Sharjah.
Sharjah, who lost 1-0 to Al Dhafra in the opening game, were given a lifeline following Marcelinho's winner four minutes into added time, but Alexandre, the Shaab coach, was convinced his goalkeeper Yousuf Abdulrehman, who was lying on the ground as the Brazilian slotted the ball into the net, had been fouled by Sharjah players when the initial cross came in and blamed the referee Ammar Al Junaibi for "destroying" the game.
"The referee gave the win to Sharjah," Alexandre said. "It was a good game and both teams fought really hard for the three points. The match should have finished as a draw, but the referee destroyed everything."
Shaab, who had defeated Emirates 2-1 in their first play-off match, will have to beat Dhafra in their final game and hope their city rivals finish on the losing side. If Sharjah beat Emirates, they will be through on their head-to-head results even if Shaab take all three points.
Alexandre understands Shaab's fate is no longer in their hands, but the Brazilian says his team will not fight until the final whistle against Dhafra on Friday.
"We must continue to believe," Alexandre said. "This is football and anything can happen. We can win our match and Sharjah might lose or draw. So we need to stay calm, stay focused and fight until the last second because we have a chance until the final second.
"We cannot stop or give up because you can never know what might happen.
"We have to make sure we win our game and then we will see what happens in the Sharjah-Emirates game."
Faouzi Benzarti, the Sharjah coach, is expecting another hard-fought game for his team when he lines up against his brother Lutfi, the Emirates coach.
"It will be another tough match for us and a unique game because I will be facing my brother's team," Benzarti said.
"We have to work very hard because there is only a short gap between the matches. I believe we have a 70 per cent chance of winning against Emirates."
As expected, a large number of fans had turned up for the game at Al Ahli's Rashid Stadium. They did not get to celebrate any goals in the first 45 minutes, but there were enough chances at either end.
The second half was similar and Shaab were unlucky not to take the lead in the 54th minute when Michael N'dri's header bounced back off the crossbar.
The Frenchman wasted another good opportunity in the 65th minute, tapping Careca's cross straight at the Sharjah keeper.
Careca then missed an even easier chance seven minutes from time after breaking from the halfway line. The Brazilian had only the keeper to beat as he darted into the box, but the former Al Nasr striker shot straight at him.
All those misses came back to haunt the Division One hopefuls when Marcelinho, the Brazilian, struck the only goal deep into injury time.
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE