Reigning UAE Pro League champions advance to quarter-finals of Fifa Club World Cup
UAE’s reigning Pro League champions Al Wahda overcame a nervy start to beat Hekari United from
It was a historic win for the Abu Dhabi-based side on the world stage, banishing bitter memories of last year’s tournament for the host nation when Al Ahli of
Fifa president Joseph Sepp Blatter graced the ceremonial opening of this annual tournament being held in UAE for the second time turning the attention of football fans once again to the region which is celebrating the awarding of organising the 2022 World Cup to
Al Wahda did not disappoint with a clinical performance on the field against a motley group of amateur footballers from the Pacific islands representing
Brazilians Hugo and Fernando Baiano struck within the space of four minutes before the interval to virtually seal the fate of Hekari in this playoff match while substitute Abdulraheem Jumaa added the icing to their victory with his 71st minute goal to the delight of the nearly 24,000 mostly Wahdawi fans who created a lively atmosphere to this momentous occasion.
Al Wahda qualified to meet Asian champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma FC of
Hekari United surprised the hosts when they threatened to score off the first corner of the match in the fifth minute. Fahad Masoud stood in the way of a pin point header at the near post from Pita Bolatoga.
But this was the only sight of goal the visitors had thereafter until a fine left-footed drive was stopped by a diving Adel Al Hosani in the 81st minute.
Al Wahda controlled the pace and pattern of the game without having to actually step on the accelerator although national star Ismael Matar must be kicking himself after failing to get on the scoresheet being wide of the target on at least two occasions.
Hekari stopper Simione Tamanisau denied Baiano twice in quick succession after 15 minutes. The gaunt Brazilian shot straight to him after doing well to control a lobbed pass from Magrao in the first instance while a minute later a thundering drive from the edge of the box following a fine break by Hugo was blocked by Tamanisau.
On the half hour, a lovely move initiated by midfielder Mahmoud Al Hammadi saw Matar making a dummy run before put clear by Baiano but the UAE striker’s effort only managed to clear the far post.
Al Hammadi who along with Masoud weaved through the Hekari defence time and again, combined beautifully to break the ice for Al Wahda in the 40th minute.
Masood crossed to Al Hammadi who played it back for Hugo to drill it into the right corner with a left-footed strike from outside the box.
Four minutes later, Baiano deservedly found the net when he rifled in from close range between the keeper and the near post after Masood split the defence with a perfect through ball which gave Al Wahda a 2-0 lead at the break.
After the turn around, Baiano triggered another scoring opportunity by providing a long ball to Masoud who put Matar through. But his effort trickled wide of the far post despite a desperate lunge by Baiano.
Hekari stopper Tamanisau parried away a fine left foot volley from Al Hammadi in the 55th minute.
Hugo masterminded Al Wahda’s third goal when his cross across the face of goal beat a diving Tamanisau for Jumaa to bundle it home. Jumaa, who came in for Masood, fluffed a chance two minutes later when his chip over the keeper was off target.
Baiano and Matar were taken off late in the game while substitute Modibi Diarra going close twice in the last ten minutes of the game.