'Immense joy' for Andres Iniesta after dramatic home debut for Emirates Club

Spanish great played a key role in thrilling 4-4 draw against Ajman in Adnoc Pro League

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Andres Iniesta was philosophical after missing out on the perfect start to his new career with Emirates Club as they were denied victory with the last kick of the game.

The Spanish great was the central figure of an extraordinary game on his home debut for his new club in Ras Al Khaimah on Friday evening.

There were eight goals shared evenly between them and Ajman at the start of the second week of matches in the Adnoc Pro League.

There were three penalties given – one chalked off after a VAR review, and the other two coming in a dramatic period of stoppage time at the end of the game.

Iniesta himself bookended the fixture with two moments of class, which you might expect from a player of such lavish achievements in his career with Barcelona and Spain.

Just 94 seconds in, and with thousands of fans still yet to make their way to their seats, he set up the opener for Lithierry da Silva Neves with a free kick from the left of the box.

In injury time at the end, he appeared to have scripted a fairy tale 4-3 comeback win when he hit a penalty into the top corner.

He and his side were to be deprived, though, as the away side went down the other end and forced a spot kick of their own, which Ali Madan chipped down the middle for a share of the points.

“It would have been a great ending,” said Iniesta, whose side had been 3-1 down at half time.

“I knew there were minutes left but until the referee blows the final whistle, you can't take it for granted.

“But it was an immense joy [to score to lead the comeback] and we need to continue that in the next games.

“I think that in the first half there were errors on our part, but in the second half there were very positive things.

"The team has believed in being able to tie, win, and these are things that we have to stick with.”

Perhaps the most remarkable feature of Iniesta’s own performance was his staying power.

The 39-year-old midfielder had played 20 minutes at the end of Emirates’ loss to Al Wasl a week earlier.

This time around he was widely expected to be withdrawn at around the hour mark.

It was at that point, though, that his side were in the throes of a rousing comeback. Ismail Al Hammadi scored to reduce the deficit to 3-2, at which point Iniesta moved to the touchline and appeared to suggest he wanted to stay on and help the fight.

In the end, he was out there for 106 minutes – there were six minutes of stoppage time at the end of the first half, and 10 in the second.

It was a fine effort by all involved, given the feels-like temperature at the 6pm kick off was 47º Celsius.

“Of course, they are not very favourable conditions, but in the end you work, you try to adapt to it as quickly as possible and, well, like anywhere, take care of yourself and try to do a great job,” Iniesta said.

Updated: August 26, 2023, 6:14 AM