Emirates Club boss Nizar Mahrous has faith his “cautious and focused” troops will hold their nerve during a stressful final day as they look to guarantee survival in the Arabian Gulf League.
The Syrian’s side sit in the second and final relegation-play-off spot, two points off 10th-placed Al Dhafra. To extinguish any threat of their five-season run in the top flight being ended next month by First Division League’s Al Hamriyah, they must defeat 2019 AFC Champions League-chasing Al Nasr on Sunday and hope the Western Knights do not spoil Al Ain’s title party.
“We’re waiting on Al Dhafra to learn about our survival,” said Mahrous, who last month was both dismissed by bottom-placed Hatta and then hired by Emirates.
“We are cautious and focused on our mission. We’ve redoubled our efforts to get through this difficult phase.”
A pair of play-offs are set to be played on May 9 and 13 to facilitate the AGL’s return to 14 teams for 2018/19. The bottom two in the top flight will face the third and fourth-placed finishers in the FDL, whose top two of Bani Yas and Ittihad Kalba have already gained automatic promotion.
The other tie is between AGL wooden-spoon holders Hatta and Diego Maradona-less Fujairah.
At the other end of the table, Nasr hold slim hopes of usurping Bur Dubai rivals Al Wasl in the race for third.
A six-game winning streak that followed the decision to rehire coach Ivan Jovanovic was abruptly ended by last Saturday’s 4-0 thumping by Al Ain. This result leaves the fourth-placed Blue Wave two points in arrears, although the Serbian is refusing to give up hope.
He said: “We will play for the win to regain third place, while Emirates Club will also enter the game in search of the win and nothing else to try to preserve their chances of staying up.”
Diego Maradona resigned as coach of UAE second division club Fujairah on Friday after his team failed to gain promotion, his lawyer Matias Morla announced.
Argentine legend Maradona, a former World Cup winner and one of football’s most divisive figures, said he was stepping down after a 1-1 draw against Khorfakkan.
“After today’s match, and having failed to achieve the objective of promotion, Diego Maradona will no longer be the coach of the team,” tweeted Moria.
ICYMI: Diego Maradona was reportedly sacked as Fujairah boss last night 👀https://t.co/4bWrdW3dln
— Sport360° (@Sport360) April 28, 2018
The lawyer insisted that the decision “had been a mutual agreement” with the club and that he wished Fujairah “the best”.
Maradona, 57, was appointed coach in May last year with the task of getting Al Fujairah back into the top flight after a two-year absence.
However, Friday’s result meant that the team cannot finish any higher than third in the table.
Argentina icon Diego Maradona’s managerial comeback has reportedly been brought to a premature and shocking close after undefeated Fujairah dismissed him hours after they failed to earn automatic promotion to the Arabian Gulf League upon a rollercoaster final day.
Maradona, 57, stunned the world last May when he was hired by the ambitious First Division League-challengers on a one-season deal amid a blaze of publicity. His task upon the end of a five-year exile from the dugout was to ensure the Wolves made the top flight for the first time since 2015/16.
This challenge reached a crescendo on Friday night when a disappointing 1-1 draw with 10-man Khor Fakkan saw them bumped into next month’s play-offs by ascendant Ittihad Kalba, who defeated Al Urooba 2-0 at the same time to steal second spot. The result sparked tumultuous scenes on and off the pitch at a heated Fujairah Stadium.
Maradona will now not get a chance to tackle the AGL’s bottom-placed side, Hatta, on May 9 and 13 after the third-placed Wolves management stunningly chose to bring his reign to an abrupt end.
“The management of Fujairah will be assigned to the first team,” a tweet from their Twitter account read.
Representatives for the legendary ex-Boca Juniors, Barcelona and Napoli forward – named joint FIFA Player of the Century in 2000 alongside Brazil’s Pele – revealed they had yet to be officially informed of his removal when contacted at the time of publishing.
Maradona’s previous posting was unceremoniously cut short by Al Wasl in July 2012 halfway through a two-year deal. He had exited Argentina in the aftermath of a 4-0 rout by Germany in the 2010 World Cup’s quarter-finals.
On the UAE’s east coast, Maradona avoided defeat throughout the regular 2017/18 campaign. Earlier this month, a creditable 4-2 defeat had also been incurred in the President’s Cup quarter-finals against AGL champions Al Ain.
But his profligate side was hamstrung by 11 draining second-division draws. The latest was to prove fatal.
A rollercoaster fixture in front of more than 4,000 fans witnessed the hosts go ahead just before the hour mark through right-back Fahad Sebil’s penalty. Khor veteran Essa Mohammed’s optimistic 35-yard set-piece moments later then ricocheted off striker Mohammed Ali and embarrassingly squirmed under goalkeeper Saeed Sadeq.
Maradona was uncharacteristically subdued in the final moments of the match, even after opposition player Omar Jowher was dismissed for a wild two-footed lunge. He moved to console his heartbroken players after the final whistle, performed a truncated lap of honour and eventually headed down the tunnel deep in discussion with assistant – and fellow World Cup 1986 winner – Luis Islas.
Offers from within the UAE and abroad for next term have been fielded by Maradona’s agents during recent weeks. Their celebrated client’s desire had been to secure a top-flight berth with the Wolves and ink a one-year extension.