x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Wahda close in on the title

Josef Hickersberger, the Al Wahda coach, saw his side edge closer to the Pro League title with a 2-1 victory away to Baniyas.

Fernando Baiano, the Brazilian striker, scores Al Wahda's winning goal against Baniyas last night.
Fernando Baiano, the Brazilian striker, scores Al Wahda's winning goal against Baniyas last night.

ABU DHABI // Josef Hickersberger, the Al Wahda coach, saw his side edge closer to the Pro League title with a 2-1 victory away to Baniyas last night. "The three points were what we came for and now I can say we have a better chance to win the league than the start of this match," said Hickersberger, whose team are five points ahead of Al Jazira with only six to play for.

Fernando Baiano, the Brazilian forward, returned from a three-match suspension to score a winning goal for Wahda while Al Jazira kept the chase alive with a 4-2 victory at Al Ahli. "Jazira's chances are much harder because their fate is not in their hands," added Hickersberger. "And our record in the second half of the league has been near perfect. We have lost only two points and with such a good record I would like to think we can't lose from this position.

"Of course we didn't play to our high expectations against Baniyas but winning three points was good enough. Some of the players couldn't handle the pressure and that can happen in such situations. Of course, I told them to defend, and defend well during the break. "Having said that, we must give credit to Baniyas. They are the best promoted team ever in the history of the league. They are in fourth position and that proves how good they are and to be honest, they gave us a scare."

Lutfi al Benzarti, the Baniyas coach, blamed Mohammed Ahmed, his goalkeeper, for the defeat, saying: "Wahda scored both because of his mistakes. We played an attacking game and created several good chances, but the Wahda defence was well organised and stood solid throughout the game. But I am very happy with the team's progress and can be proud of their achievements for this season. I was hoping to finish in the top six and we have done a lot better to be in fourth."

Baiano's winner was a neat chip over the charging Ahmed in the 44th minute as he latched on to an Ismail Matar pass. Wahda went ahead from the penalty spot after the Baniyas goalkeeper felled Matar in the 26th minute, which Pinga, the Brazilian midfielder, converted. But that lead did not last long as Pinga then fouled Andre Senghor at the other end and Modibo Diarra equalised from another spot kick.

In the night's other games, Emirate, the President's Cup winners, were relegated after a 5-3 defeat to Al Ain. Carlos Tenorio fired a hat-trick as Al Nasr, who were fighting relegation, beat Al Shabab 3-2. Al Dhafra and Sharjah drew 1-1 and relegated Ajman, who had only won once all season, stunned Al Wasl 4-3. apassela@thenational.ae