Al Wasl 1 Al Dhafra 1
DUBAI // Bruno Metsu was understandably never far from thoughts at the Zabeel Stadium last night as Al Wasl preserved their unbeaten start to the Pro League season with a modest draw against Al Dhafra.
The Frenchman, having asked on Thursday to be relieved of managerial duties following the discovery of serious illness, may not have witnessed in person the Dubai club's third draw in five matches, but he was certainly there in spirit.
Gilles Morisseau, the caretaker coach, has kept the same team and the same formation as his predecessor; this is very much the side Metsu built since replacing Diego Maradona in July.
The team sheet provided by the league still referenced Metsu as the head coach, while the Wasl fans unfurled a banner bearing his picture and wishing a speedy recovery.
It was fitting, then, that upon opening the scoring in the first half Shikabala, one of Metsu's recruits, led his teammates in celebration towards the giant poster.
The goal itself, coming on 22 minutes, was expertly taken, the Egyptian cutting in from the right on to his favoured left foot and driving the ball low past Khalid Al Sinani, the Dhafra goalkeeper.
The visitors had been largely outplayed in the first half and appeared set to trail at the break, especially having missed a pair of seemingly routine chances. For the first, Abdullah Al Jaberi was the culprit, the midfielder paying for his temporary indecision when through on goal in the 15th minute as Ahmed Mahmoud saved well to his left.
Then, having fallen behind, Fawzi Bashir somehow contrived to send the ball deep into the stands when a simple finish was required from 10 yards out.
Dhafra, though, finally found the net in first-half injury time, Hassan Zahran, the powerful centre-back, nodding home Saif Mohammed's pinpoint corner. Wasl felt cheated not only because of their previous superiority, but because, in their opinion, the officials had extended the half beyond what was necessary.
Players and staff found it hard to accept, converging on Fahad Al Banlhammad, the referee, as he left the pitch.
In contrast to an entertaining first half, the second 45 minutes were so lethargic that the players could have found time to challenge the official attendance by physically counting themselves the alleged 1,015 heads dotted around the ground.
Shikabala did almost win the match at the end only to have his close-range strike ruled out for offside, while Makhete Diop, Dhafra's Senegalese forward, found enough time to produce a late save from Mahmoud.
Wasl left the field disappointed not to have wreaked revenge for this month's 4-0 Etisalat Cup drubbing to Dhafra and the missed opportunity to provide an ailing coach a little solace.
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Published: October 28, 2012 04:00 AM