Poland edge UAE on penalties

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Ali Karim and a late Alzaabi strike ensured extra time after Poland twice led but the recent European FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup qualification winners kept their nerve from the spot, as Labedzki and Gac ensured a 2-0 win on penalties.

Amid a cagey opening, Labedzki broke the deadlock with a stunning effort from range although Ali Karim responded by firing into the bottom corner midway through the period.

Both sides continued to cancel one another out in a low-key second frame, Poland skipper spurning the best opportunity when he skewed a shot over the crossbar when one on one.

It took until early in the final period for the next goal as Kubiak turned and sent a low effort past Bahri in the hosts’ goal.

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A saved set-piece by Gasinski kept Poland ahead but, as UAE piled on the pressure, Alzaabi’s perfectly executed overhead kick dragged the home side back on level terms and forced extra time.

Gac’s free-kick over the crossbar was as close as either side went to an extra-time winner, but when it came to penalties, the defender and Labedzki both registered while none of UAE’s takers could find the target.

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Delight for Dalic after Diaky goal

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A late win for Al Ain. Photo courtesy of AGL.

Al Ain coach Zlatko Dalic could not have been blamed for expecting the worst.

Already robbed of, arguably, Asia’s finest player of 2016 Omar Abdulrahman’s services through suspension and with a pair of defenders joining UAE goalkeeper Khalid Essa in the treatment room before the half-hour mark, substitute Rashed Hassan’s late leveller against the run of play for 10-man Al Shabab fit a frustrating script perfectly.

More drained points in the Arabian Gulf League after last week’s embarrassing capitulation during the 2-2 draw at lowly Dibba Al Fujairah seemed certain, only for veteran midfielder Ibrahim Diaky to follow in with virtually the last kick of the game to seal a grandstand 2-1 win.

“Hamdullah, we scored in the last minute,” said a beaming Dalic. “We really deserved to win this game.

“We had many problems tonight, changed two players by 20 minutes, changed the system, changed everything.

“We had many chances, but one shot on our goal and it is 1-1. Most important is three points and I really am so happy.”

For high-flying Shabab, the first top-flight defeat suffered under inspirational Dutchman Fred Rutten should count as a missed opportunity. They created far too little against depleted opponents bar Tomas De Vincenti’s threatening shot at the end of the first-half, with the suspension for influential defensive midfielder Hassan Ibrahim set to add further pain.

“I don’t think we really got into the game,” said a downcast Rutten. “One team deserved to win.

“We had hoped we could steal a point at 1-1. But our opponents really were much better than us.”

The 2016 AFC Champions League final-contesting hosts had muddled their way through an opening period which featured more action from the medics than in the penalty boxes.

UAE boss Mahdi Ali would have winced as veteran centre-back Ismail Ahmed trudged off following a collision with Moldova forward Henrique Luvannor, with reserve right-back Fawzi Fayez soon joining him in the treatment room.

The best chances were saved for the final throes. Argentine playmaker De Vincenti forced a sharp low save from Essa’s stand-in Mohamed Busanda, while Brazilian striker Douglas was smothered at the other end when an opportunity dropped kindly to him.

Something special was needed to force the opener and forward Caio supplied it immediately after the interval. A roll of the ball onto his favoured right foot from Douglas’ cut back granted him the space to blast far beyond Salem Abdulla’s reach for a seventh goal in 12 games since being bought from Japan’s Kashima Antlers in July.

Ibrahim was then to head down the tunnel for a bruising late tackle which forced fellow UAE star Amer Abdulrahman off the field.

Yet from adversity, the Hawks soared. They had held champions Al Ahli at arm’s length in the preceding goalless draw and from nowhere substitute Hassan lashed home from 30 yards.

They should have held on for another affirming point against the heavyweights.

This didn’t count for Diaky’s wiles, his instincts to chase stand-in right-back and fellow replacement Bandar Al Ahbabi’s repelled cross deep into injury time earning a key victory which spoke volumes about the character of the squad.

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Petrescu lined up by Al Nasr if they ditch Jovanovic

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Dan Petrescu.

Long-term target Dan Petrescu has emerged as the early favourite to replace Ivan Jovanovic should Al Nasr decide to dismiss their floundering coach.

Preliminary talks are set to be intensified with the unemployed ex-Romania and Chelsea right-back after Al Ain inflicted a third-successive defeat in the Arabian Gulf League on Sunday.

This result continued an abominable start to 2016/17, which has seen them suffer six losses from 10 matches – with the forfeit following Wanderley’s passport scandal from the AFC Champions League quarter-final, first leg at Qatar’s El Jaish included – in all competitions.

Results have become so intolerable during Jovanovic’s fourth season at the helm that a change could even be made before Friday’s trip to fellow crisis side Al Wahda, who are also strongly considering ditching Mexican supremo Javier Aguirre.

Petrescu, 48, was close to accepting a switch to Al Maktoum Stadium in June 2013 before the current incumbent was hired, but a ¤12 million (Dh60m) release clause in his contract at Dynamo Moscow prevented it going through.

The well-travelled boss – who led Qatar’s Al Arabi from June-December 2014 – is available for work after a second spell at Russia’s Kuban Krasnodar ended by mutual consent after poor results on October 4.

For his part, Jovanovic remained upbeat after the tight 2-1 reversal to Al Ain saw his side sit ninth.

He said: “We’ve had bad results in the last games in the league, but I cannot lose my faith in my players – I believe in them always.

“Of course, with what happened in the Champions League, these two months something is there, but this is not an excuse. We’ve a  good team and we need to show something better.”

If Jovanovic is to exit, he bids farewell to Nasr after a mixed stint. He ended a 25-year trophy drought with the 2014 GCC Club Cup during his debut campaign, adding the Arabian Gulf Cup and President’s Cup-double a year later.

Yet his team has failed to excel in the top flight, last term’s fourth place their highest finish under him. The current campaign promised so much when Wanderley hit a double in August 24’s 3-0 triumph in Doha, but has gone into a tailspin since the Brazil-born striker’s Indonesian documentation was ruled “forged or falsified” a week later.

Jovanovic is considered a leading contender to replace UAE boss Mahdi Ali if a poor result in November 15’s World Cup 2018 qualifier against Iraq sees him sacked.

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