Promoted Bani Yas’ superb return to the Arabian Gulf League continued when they heaped more misery on Al Wasl with a 2-1 away win at Zabeel Stadium on Tuesday.
Colombian midfielder Michael Ortega was on hand in the 23rd minute to convert Leroy George’s low cross. By the 36th minute, the Dutch winger went from producer to scorer when he found the bottom corner from defender Yousef Jaber’s well-placed low cross.
Wasl tried to rally and on 70 minutes forward Hassan Mohammed rattled the post with a sliding shot from close range. This was the second time the woodwork had denied them with returning Brazilian playmaker Ronaldo Mendes rattling the crossbar in-between the Bani goals.
Compatriot Caio Canedo then converted from the penalty spot on 86 minutes, but this was too late to deny the Sky Blues a fourth-successive victory that sent them, temporarily at least, up to fifth. Wasl, last term’s third-placed finishers, remain down in 11th – just four points off the drop zone.
Bani oozed confidence and quickly took control of proceedings in Dubai.
Former Bayer Leverkusen loanee Ortega soon found himself in the perfect position to notch just a second AGL strike in 14 appearances.
Mendes, back from a temporary stint at lowly Fujairah, tried to inspire a response, but could only find the bar.
This sparked a reaction from the startled Sky Blues. Ex- Melbourne Victory flyer George exhibited great poise to dispatch Jaber’s centre for a fourth top-flight goal in 15 run-outs.
Wasl had won their first two games under ex-Al Wahda boss Laurentiu Reghecampf. But this resurgence looked bound to end long before Mohammed was denied by the post and Canedo profited from Ortega’s handball.
Revitalised Al Wasl’s hectic run of three matches during 10 days, in two competitions, begins on Tuesday with a clash against tricky promoted opponents Bani Yas.
New boss Laurentiu Reghecampf’s organisational skills are set to be tested against the Sky Blues and Al Wahda – the club that sacked him during November – in the Arabian Gulf League, plus Saturday’s hotly anticipated Zayed Champions Cup quarter-final, first leg against Saudi Arabian royalty Al Ahli Jeddah.
“We are still in the starting stage so it is difficult to judge the level of the team now, we have a strong game with Bani Yas and we have to enter the game with the utmost readiness so that we can win,” said the Romanian, whose return of two wins from two top-flight fixtures in charge will be tested against a club who sit a creditable fifth.
“Especially as we will also play difficult matches in a short time.”
Wasl looked set for a shock descent from last term’s third-placed finishers into relegation candidates under Bolivia’s Gustavo Quinteroz and caretaker Hassan Al Abdouli.
Meanwhile, strugglers Fujairah have turned to the man who secured top-flight football to save their season.
Dr Abdullah Mesfer guided the Wolves through last term’s promotion play-offs after the abrupt exit of Diego Maradona. He was then ditched for Ivan Hasek, but the Czech was dismissed after Friday’s 2-0 loss against Wasl left them just three points off the drop zone.
In a lengthy coaching career, Dr Mesfer has also led the likes of UAE, Jordan, UAE Under-23s, Dibba Al Fujairah and Al Dhafra.
Saeed Juma came off the substitutes’ bench and converted the winning penalty as Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club pulled off an epic quarter-final victory against neighbours Al Nasr in the President’ Cup.
In a tense clash at Al Wasl’s Zabeel Stadium, all the drama was saved for the final throes. Replacement Mohamed Al Akbari rounded goalkeeper Majed Nasser in the 79th minute and blasted into an open goal, via the crossbar, to put the Blue Wave in front.
The 2014/15 champions, however, could not hold out and Moldova forward Henruque Luvannor scored an 89th-minute spot-kick, on the rebound, to earn extra time.
Chances then came and went prior to a shootout in which 25-year-old Juma registered the winning effort.
Elsewhere on Saturday night, Sharjah remain on course for a remarkable double after defender Abdullah Ghanem produced a scruffy extra-time header to earn a 2-1 win against valiant Emirates Club at Fujairah Stadium.
The unbeaten Arabian Gulf League leaders went ahead in style during the 13th minute, through Cape Verde winger Ryan Mendes control and low finish. Victory was then snatched from them when midfielder Hossam Loutfy pounced from close range in the 94th minute.
Ghanem then had the decisive touch after a goalmouth scramble.