Red card and late goal leaves Al Ahli coach Cosmin Olaroiu seething in Asian Champions League

Olaroiu could only smile wryly in the dugout as a case of mistaken identity by the referee swung the balance of this Asian Champions League encounter in the hosts’ favour as the Saudi club pulled off a 2-1 win, reports Ahmed Rizvi.

The UAE’s Al Ahli, right, were heartbroken in Jeddah on Tuesday night. Al Ittihad
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Al Ahli (KSA) 2 Al Ahli (UAE 1

Al Ahli (KSA) Aseri 78', Cesar 90+4'

Al Ahli (UAE) Ribeiro 15'

Red card Majed Hassan (Al Ahli UAE)

Man of the match Bruno Cesar (Al Ahli KSA)

The men in the middle are not Cosmin Olaroiu’s favourite people of late. The Al Ahli coach has been involved in a running battle with one referee in particular in the domestic Arabian Gulf League over the past month, but it is fair to say nothing Yaqoub Al Hammadi has done to irk the Romanian will compare to the blunder committed by the man with the whistle in Tuesday night’s match in Jeddah.

Olaroiu could only smile wryly in the dugout as a case of mistaken identity by Qatari referee Abdullah Baloushi swung the balance of this Asian Champions League encounter between the Ah Ahlis of Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the hosts’ favour.

It was around about the hour mark. Olaroiu’s Dubai club were up 1-0 against their namesake thanks to a piece of magic by Brazilian Everton Ribeiro in the 15th minute.

As the Saudi side pressed in search of an equaliser, Bruno Cesar, the Jeddah club’s Brazilian striker, made a dash for the Ahli box, but got into a tangle with Ribeiro. Cesar appeared to make the most of the coming together, diving theatrically to the ground.

Majed Hassan, who had been booked earlier in the match, was standing a good metre away from Cesar when it happened, but Baloushi, somehow, decided the Emirati was the culprit.

The referee made no effort to communicate with any of his assistants and showed Hassan a second yellow card before brandishing a red. Hassan protested profusely and initially refused to leave the pitch before being dragged off. After the final whistle, he could be seen sobbing uncontrollably in the arms of Olaroiu.

Baloushi, on the other hand, stood surrounded by security officials, and with good reason. The visiting players and officials were seething, robbed of what could have been a rare win for a UAE club in Saudi Arabia.

Until that gaffe by the official, Ahli had looked good for the three points that would have put them joint-top of Group D alongside the Saudi club. As it is, they are now third, two points behind second-place Nasaf Qarshi, who stunned Iranian club Tractor Sazi 2-1 earlier in the day in Tabriz.

Shocked by the referee’s error, the visitors gathered themselves and defended stoutly, but Mohannad Assiri headed in the equaliser in the 77th minute.

Still, Ahli kept fighting and could have returned home with a point, but in the fourth minute of added time, Cesar rubbed more salt into the Dubai club’s wounds as he fired in the winner from inside a crowded box.

Olaroiu looked away, his face wearing the look of anger and disgust. It is hard to imagine any officiating error has proven as costly to the Dubai club as Baloushi’s howler last night.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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