Bani Yas’ four-game Arabian Gulf League losing streak came to an end last night, but this was a painful way to do it.
A first victory since February 8 seemed certain after winter signing Imad Khalili opened his account for the club to put them 2-1 up against resurgent Al Wasl. Injury time then only had to be seen out, this proving beyond their fragile capabilities as Ederson struck past 90 minutes to secure a 2-2 draw.
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Fortune had previously shined on the struggling hosts, a leveller from a highly-debatable penalty plus unfathomable misses from Ederson and Fabio De Lima making victory appear preordained.
Sky Blues boss Luis Garcia has been gifted uncharacteristic patience from an outfit famed for dispensing with coaches, nine previous changes being recorded from 2008/09. The ex-Getafe and Levante chief has been publicly backed to be in charge next term regardless of results, though validation is required.
“We kept the win until the last minute then we lost it,” a visibly-deflated Garcia said. “I do not have more words to give.
“We were not successful in the first half, but after the break we performed better on the counter-attack. Between me and my new win was one minute.”
Opponents Wasl could now drop six points off the top four with six games to play if Al Wahda beat second-bottom Ajman this evening. But boss Gabriel Calderon’s ambition to crash the Asian qualification spots remained undiminished.
“For me, this match was minimum a draw for Al Wasl even though we gave up many opportunities,” said Calderon, who enjoyed a successful spell in charge of the Sky Blues in 2011/12. “The level for Wasl is the top four, but the players need to play the same way every game."
Wasl began with typical swagger in Abu Dhabi, forward Caio Canedo taking their Brazilian trio’s AGL tally to 31 this term when firing in low after De Lima’s devilish through-ball bamboozled defender Angel Dealbert.
Doubt was clear on the Bani Yas players’ faces; a solution from elsewhere was required. It duly came when referee Omar Mohamed Al Ali staggeringly pointed to the spot when goalkeeper Yousif Abdulla’s momentum innocently took him into Bandar Al Ahbabi following an errant chip.
Influential playmaker Joan Verdu held his nerve to stroke home his sixth penalty of the season.
Luck then proved vital for the hosts. A frantic end to the first half saw De Lima fire over from three yards and Ederson head into the post from equally-close range.
Bani Yas improved in the second half, Swedish substitute Khalili putting them ahead on 70 minutes when lashing in on the half-volley from Verdu’s delicate pass.
Disappointment lay around the corner, however. Central midfielder Hugo Viana had a hand in everything good for the visitors, his incisive pass from the edge of the area sending Ederson clear to crush Garcia and his players with a low first-time finish.