Al Wasl fail to find fitting farewell in final match at Zabeel Stadium

Al Wasl waved goodbye to its Zabeel Stadium on Friday night with a frustrating 1-1 draw with Emirates club, as its final competitive match failed to grant the grand old ground a fitting finale.

AL WASL 1-1 EMIRATES

Wasl De Lima 73'

Emirates Pimpao 56'

STORY OF MATCH:

DUBAI // Out with the old and in with the new at Al Wasl.

The Dubai club, one of the UAE’s most decorated, waved goodbye to its Zabeel Stadium on Friday night with a frustrating 1-1 draw with Emirates club, as its final competitive match failed to grant the grand old ground a fitting finale.

However, a point secured, Wasl could content themselves by glancing at the Arabian Gulf League table. The comeback draw, secured when Fabio de Lima cancelled out Rodrigo Pimpao’s second-half header, was enough to ensure the hosts moved to third and now occupy fresh territory in the race for Asian Champions League qualification. Trading places with Al Nasr, their bitter rivals, would have only heartened the home supporters, who unfurled a banner in the latter stages commemorating Wasl’s storied history.

Soon to be demolished for work to commence on a new 26,000-plus replacement, the stadium has housed seven different UAE league champions and two President’s Cup-winning sides. While the class of 2016 is far from that vintage, this season at least holds hope of Wasl’s best league finish in the professional era.

They needed to fight back from Pimpao’s 56th-minute opener, when the Brazilian connected with Renan Garcia’s pinpoint free-kick and directed his header inside the far post. Struggling in the fight for survival, it offered Emirates a golden opportunity to break clear from the relegation scrap.

Yet Wasl soon pegged them back, De Lima leaping high and ahead of goalkeeper Ali Saqr to prod home the equaliser. It was the Brazilian’s 15th league goal of the campaign, bettered only by Al Wahda’s Sebastian Tagliabue.

Wasl, reduced to 10 men late on when Hassan Ameen saw red, predictably poured forward in search of the winner, but could not find the final touch, the final goal to provide its now-former home a fitting finale.

MAN OF THE MATCH:

Renan Garcia — The Emirates midfielder set up his side’s goal, but it was his ability to shackle De Lima, Wasl’s most dangerous forward, that stood out. De Lima managed to score, yet was nowhere as effective. Garcia deserves the credit.

WHAT THE MANAGERS SAID:

Gabriel Calderon, the Wasl coach: “I must congratulate my team because every time we need to overcome many problems, yet they continue to play well, to push the opponent for the win. Every time we receive a goal and the team come back. We always show the spirit we have to fight back and get the result. Of course, I like to win every time, but today the team were a little tired.”

Paulo Comelli, the Emirates manager: “It was an open game, both teams played to win. We played offensively and, if more relaxed on the counter-attack, we could have finished the game in our favour. I guess 27 or 28 points will keep us safe. We are performing better in the second half of the league, we have confidence in our team and are playing well. I believe we can move away from the relegation zone.”

NATIONAL VERDICT:

Wasl should be disappointed not to get the victory and create a bigger gap between themselves and Nasr, especially since the latter can regain third spot on Saturday. For 11th-placed Emirates, though, this could prove a vital away point in the battle to beat the drop.​

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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