Diego Maradona to reward players with first-team place after Wahda loss

Coach thrilled as Al Wasl come from behind to beat 10-man Wahda and keep cup hopes alive.

Al Wasl VS Al Wahdah- photographer : Imran Shahid

Credit:  Imran Shahid/ Al Ittihad
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ABU DHABI // Diego Maradona, the Al Wasl coach, praised his fringe players on Friday night after they came back from a goal down to win 2-1 against 10-man Al Wahda, keeping alive their hopes of qualifying for the last four in the Etisalat Cup.

Hamad Al Hosani tapped in a cross from Saoud Saeed to cancel Fernando Baiano's first-half lead, and Essa Ali scored the winner in the last minute of added time to take Wasl's tally to 12 points in Group A last night at the Al Nahyan Stadium.

They are now level with Dubai and one point behind second-place Al Ain in Group A. Al Jazira secured one of the two semi-final berths after a 4-0 thrashing of Dubai to take their points tally to 19.

Maradona, who played mostly reserve-team players for a second successive Etisalat Cup game, said the win against Wahda provided him with a good opportunity to evaluate the understudies.

"Now I have got a good idea of some of the players that I can promote to the first team," the Argentine said.

"We lost the last game 3-0 to Dubai after conceding three goals in the last seven minutes, but tonight they showed some real character to come from a goal down to win.

"We were the better team. We controlled the game for a major part and created several scoring chances. I think to win 2-1 against Wahda was a fair result."

Josef Hickersberger, the Wahda coach, was unhappy at the referee Abdullah Al Zaabi's decision to red-card Omar Ali.

"It wasn't a red card because the Wasl player was not in control of the ball and he was already falling," said the Austrian. "I have seen the television replays a few times and it was a very harsh decision to send him out."

The Wahda defender was given a direct red card eight minutes into the second half for a foul on Fahad Hadeed just outside the box.

"We made a good start but ended badly," said Hickersberger. "Even with one player short we had a couple of chances to score. Hugo missed a header and Mohammed Al Shehhi also missed a chance.

"The players worked really hard, especially when Omar was sent off. But I can take some positives also from this game.

"Al Shehhi showed he is returning to his best after coming from an injury that had kept him away for more than two months, Baiano was scoring again and some of the youngsters in the midfield did a pretty good job. So this defeat doesn't look as bad for me."



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