ABU DHABI // A late winner from Fareed Ismail kept Baniyas' hopes alive in the Etisalat Cup as a 2-1 win over Kalba lifted them up to third in Group B tonight.
Ismail, the second-half substitute, beat the offside trap, sprinted to into the area before curling the ball past Mohammed Khalef, the Kalba goalkeeper, to seal victory three minutes from time. Khalid Mubarak volleyed in a Fahad Sebil cross to give the home the lead on 22 minutes but Khaled Khamis equalised just before the hour mark after being put through by Amer Deeb, the Jordanian midfielder.
The result took Baniyas' tally to six points, level with second-placed Al Dhafra, although they remain three behind the leaders Al Wasl in Group B with four games left.
Baniyas were without Amer Abdulrahman, Mohammed Fawzi and Haboush Saleh, all on international duty with the UAE preparing for next week's Gulf Cup in Bahrain. They also rested Andre Senghor, the Senegalese striker, and Yousuf Jaber, the captain, while Mohamed Zidan was omitted as he continues his recovery from a hamstring strain.
Kalba too were also without their star names as Nabil Daoudi and Gregory Dufrennes were left out. But they are showing signs of improvement under Ze Mario, the Brazilian, who is the third coach at the northern emirate club already this season, after the Croatian Dragan Talajic and the Tunisian Lotfi Benzarti. The Brazilian began his tenure in office with a 3-2 victory over Dibba Al Fujairah and a 1-1 draw against Dubai in the Pro League before making an exit from the President's Cup when they were beaten 3-1 by Sharjah last week.
The former Al Wasl coach said he was pleased with the effort shown by his struggling side, but said investment in the squad was needed when the transfer window opens next month.
"We are getting the confidence back and we played another good game against a strong team," Ze Mario said after the Baniyas defeat. "I am satisfied with the way we played. We must be realistic that the team has been struggling. We definitely need more players and new foreign players and we will be working during the transfer window to strengthen the squad."
Baniyas, meanwhile, continue to go from strength to strength. Having ended the first half of the Pro League season in fourth place, they booked their place in the quarter-finals of the President's Cup last week and the victory over Kalba has revived hopes of reaching the knockout stages of the Etisalat Cup.
Jozef Chovanec, the Baniyas coach, said he was just happy to secure the three points with so many first-team regulars missing.
"It was a difficult game without several key players in or side," the Czech said. "It has been a very busy schedule. We have a lot of tired players and some of the players need a rest. But the important thing is that we managed to win the three points."