Brazilian forward Fabio De Lima’s sensational curled strike in the 26th minute saw the Cheetahs look poised to celebrate an enlivening victory against Qatar’s Al Sadd upon the end of their 10-year wait to play in Asia’s elite club competition. But the introduction of Baghdad Bounedjah off the substitute’s bench turned the Group C opener around, the Algeria centre forward decisively completing his brace on the stroke of second-half injury-time.
This reversal saw the devastated Cheetahs exit Zabeel Stadium with tails between their legs.
For ex-Argentina left-back Arruabarrena, his troops must instantly snap out of this slump with the next 10 days witnessing Friday’s decider against Bur Dubai rivals Al Nasr for a spot in the Arabian Gulf Cup’s semi-finals, Tuesday’s second continental date at Uzbekistan’s Nasaf and next weekend’s resumption of their Arabian Gulf League title push at lowly Dibba Al Fujairah.
He said: “When we fall, we have to stand back up again.
“After the League Cup we play in the Champions League again, and then the Arabian Gulf League continues, but like I said, we will learn because for almost all of us, this was our first time playing here [ACL].”
A lack of experience was a major concern for the ex-Boca Juniors player and tactician. Sadd are two-time Asian kings, boast Spain icon Xavi in their ranks and hot prospects such as Akram Afif have been plying their trade in Europe.
“We made a good first half but in the second we lost possession, made two mistakes and lost the game,” said Arruabarrena.
“From the beginning we said they were more experienced than us and had different players.
“For almost all our players this is the first time they have played in this competition, but they will learn from playing the best teams in Asia. We do not have too many players, but this is not the moment to speak.”
Wasl will need to avoid defeat at Nasaf’s Qarshi Markazi Stadium to boost hopes of avoiding a repeat of 2008’s group-stage elimination.
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