ABU DHABI // Mahmoud Al Mas, the Al Ain goalkeeper, played the heroic role to rescue his team from a second defeat in two weeks against Al Wahda on Friday night at the Al Nahyan Stadium.
Al Ain went down 2-1 in the Arabian Gulf League, but last night they survived to settle for a scoreless result in the Arabian Gulf Cup, taking their tally to two points from three matches. For Wahda, it was their third draw and took their tally to three.
Al Mas denied Wahda from taking a first-half lead.
He blocked three shots repeatedly from inside the area, the first from Sebastian Tagliabue and twice on the rebound from Amer Omar.
Al Mas made another excellent save 10 minutes into the second half by pushing out a close range first time effort from Tagliabue.
He saved a third by fisting a powerfully struck shot from substitute Sultan Saif over the crossbar eight minutes left.
Al Ain, already severely depleted because of players called up for national duty, suffered a blow even before the game started. Helal Saeed, the veteran midfielder, was ruled out after suffering a muscle spasm while warming up.
“In the cup competition, we have to provide chances to the reserve players, particularly a team like Al Ain, where a majority of the players are called up for national team duties,” Al Ain coach Zlatko Dalic said.
“Under the circumstances we did well to share a point. We are still in the race and still have a chance to reach the semi-finals in this cup competition.”
“It was a balanced game played by both teams although we had more scoring opportunities than them,” Dalic’s Wahda counterpart Javier Aguirre said.
“The goalkeeper (Mahmoud Al Mas) made all the difference with his excellent work between the posts.
“We played eight from the reserves because players were on national duties and more injured players.
“I thought it was a good result. We have three points from three games and still hold a chance to reach the semi-finals.”
In the other games, Al Wasl moved three points clear at the top of Group A after a 2-0 victory over Baniyas at the Zabeel Stadium.
Fabio de Lima beat the Baniyas defence with a darting run to volley in a cross from his Brazilian teammate Caio Caneda for a second minute lead.
Caneda the provider then turned into the scorer by doubling the lead on the hour, a lead they preserved until the end and leave Baniyas winless in two cup games.
Al Dhafra won their first points in the cup competition with a 3-1 triumph over Al Shaab at the Hamdan bin Zayed stadium.
Makhete Diop put his side ahead in the 22nd minute but it lasted only eight minutes before Matias Donoso struck the equaliser.
Ahmed Ali regained the lead five minutes into the second half and David Barral, the Spaniard who came in as a substitute, struck four minutes from time to ensure the three points for Dhafra.
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