x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Unlucky play-off losers sets sights on rapid return to Pro League

Sharjah 2 Emirates 1 Heartbreak for Sharjah's fans as goals from Badr and Marcelinho are not enough to guarantee promotion to the Pro League.

Players of Sharjah were despondent after their relegation from the Pro League.
Players of Sharjah were despondent after their relegation from the Pro League.

Sharjah 2 Emirates 1

DUBAI // Both Sharjah and Emirates promised to be back in the Pro League at the earliest after being upstaged in the play-offs by two Division One sides, Al Shaab and Al Dhafra.

Sharjah and Emirates, who finished at the bottom of the Pro League table last season, were given a lifeline by the UAE Football Association's decision to expand the league to 14 teams.

Sharjah started the playoffs with a 1-0 defeat against Dhafra, but beat arch rivals Al Shaab 1-0 in the next game and last night, they came back from a goal down to beat Emirates, who lost all three games.

Badr Abdulrahman and Marcelo Oliveira were the toast of the Sharjah fans, scoring for the Kings after Hadef Saif had given Emirates a 20th minute lead. That win, however, was not good enough to take Sharjah back to the Pro League. Shaab and Dhafra clinched the two spots on goal difference following a three-way tie at the top on six points.

Sharjah, who have faced the ignominy of relegation just once when they spent the 1989-90 season in Division One, will now return to the anonymity of the lower division, but Benzarti said they could be back in the Pro League as early as next season.

"We are very sad to go down to first division," said Redha Suissi, the Sharjah assistant coach. "God willing we will be back next season. Both Sharjah and Emirates deserve to be playing in the Pro League."

With the hopes of all four teams still alive, Emirates made a spirited start and Lebanese Hassan Maatouk, making his debut for the Ras Al Khaimah club after returning from international duty, was unlucky not to put them ahead in the 5th minute when his free-kick bounced off the crosspiece.

Sharjah also made an equally blustery start and Esam Darwish tested Emirates keeper Mutaz Abdulla with a blistering volley in the 7th minute.

Emirates eventually opened the scoring in the 20th minute following a swift foray into Sharjah territory with Al Zaabi flicking home German Herrera's clever cross.

Sharjah, however, equalised in the 30th minute when Badr Abdulrahman's free-kick sneaked through the crowded Emirates box and lodged into corner of the net.  They then took the lead three minutes after the break with Marcelinho rising high over the Emirates defence to head in Salem Khamis' corner.

That goal and the win, however, was not enough to take them through as Shaab's better goal difference and Dhafra's win over Sharjah took the two Division One teams back to the Pro League.

"Even if we had won this game, our destiny was not in our hands," said Mohammed Karim, the Emirates Assistant coach. "There are lots of big teams who have been relegated, like Arsenal, Juventus, Marseille, so there is no shame.

"We tried our best and we will work even harder to come back. We congratulate the two teams who have qualified for the Pro League."

arizvi@thenational.ae

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