ABU DHABI // Abel Braga’s first game in charge of Al Jazira in more than four years ended in a 2-1 defeat on Friday night at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.
The home team were 1-0 behind and reduced to 10 players inside the first 25 minutes before eventually succumbing to a rejuvenated Al Wasl.
Jazira began well, with new signings Thiago Neves and Jefferson Farfan making good headway as they pushed for an early lead, but it was the visitors who scored first when Hugo Viana struck from a 30-yard free kick.
The Portuguese midfielder’s curling shot sailed over the wall and into the corner of the net for a 20th-minute lead.
Jazira received a heavy blow three minutes later when defender Musallam Fayez received a straight red card for an ugly tackle on Abdullah Saleh.
Jazira raised the tempo despite the disadvantage and restored parity five minutes before the break when Neves knocked in an equaliser after exchanging passes with Khamis Ismail.
Parity was short-lived, however, as Wasl regained the initiative five minutes into the second half when Yasir Salem chipped over Ali Kasheif after moving quickest to a ball that had taken a deflection off Park Jong-woo and fell inside the area.
Wasl created many more chances during the latter part of the match against a tiring Jazira team, who were struggling at the end after being a player down in energy-sapping conditions.
Man of the match — Hugo Viana
Shipped out from Al Ahli last season after being designated surplus to requirements, Hugo Viana produced a match-winning performance for Wasl. The Portuguese midfielder set the platform with a smart free kick that shocked the Jazira defence.
What the managers said
Gabriel Calderon, the Wasl coach: “Playing against 10 players made no difference for us. Sometimes when teams lose one player they play better, and Jazira did that by scoring an equaliser. We could have scored more, particularly in the last 15 minutes. I am very happy with the result.”
Abel Braga, the Jazira coach: “After conceding a goal from a set piece and then losing a player so early, it affected our game. We played well until then. Obviously it was a disappointing result, but we’ll learn from this game and return stronger.”
The National’s verdict
Despite playing most of the game with 10 players, Jazira were far from impressive for a side expected to challenge for the title.
It appears the defensive woes of last season are back to haunt them after they conceded goals from poor defending at a set piece and then an embarrassing failed clearance. They also wasted a few early opportunities in front of goal.
Wasl, meanwhile, continued the impressive momentum they built in the second half of last season with a deserved win.
FOLLOW US ON TWITTER @NatSportUAE