Caio Canedo struck late on from the penalty spot to give Al Wasl hope with a 2-2 first-leg draw against star-studded Al Ahli Jeddah in the Zayed Champions Cup’s quarter-finals.
Centre-back Abdulla Jasem broke his career duck with a header at Zabeel Stadium for the struggling hosts. A flurry of first-half opportunities went begging at the other end, prior to €10 million Romania winger Nicolai Stanciu’s divine long-distance leveller on 66 minutes and prolific Cape Verde striker Djaniny’s tap-in soon after.
Chile midfielder Paulo Diaz then recklessly went through the back of substitute Hassan Mohammed, allowing Brazilian forward Canedo to calmly level.
JEDDAH’S JUST DESSERTS
Ahli had been warned. Neighbours Al Ittihad and Egypt giants Al Ahly had fallen already to a Wasl side that has sunk to being shock relegation contenders in the Arabian Gulf League.
Saturday’s concession of an early Jassim header – a first career goal at the 37th time of asking – would have inflated hopes of another scalp.
Prolific Syria striker Omar Al Somah then wasted four glorious first-half chances. This profligacy appeared to be going unpunished when Stanciu opened his Ahli account in spectacular fashion and Djaniny tapped in a 15th goal for his new club.
Wasl then rallied and Canedo’s spot-kick gave them hope for February 25’s return at King Abdullah Sports City.
FOSSATI’S EARLY FUMBLES
The curious decision to dispense with Pablo Guede this month and draft in Uruguayan veteran Jorge Fossati by Ahli seemed rooted in a desire to tighten up.
On the evidence of the 66-year-old’s first two games in charge, this ruthless call is not going to plan.
It’s now two matches played, no clean sheets kept and three headed goals conceded, plus a needless penalty.
WILL SAUDIS STILL CIRCLE FABIO?
A lucrative move west to the Saudi Professional League looked certain last summer for – then – Wasl darling Fabio De Lima.
Will links to Al Hilal and Al Nassr, however, resurface this off-season?
Against Ahli, the 25-year-old was reserved. A curled shot in the 77th minute went agonisingly wide, summing up his frustrations.
He did little on Saturday to change minds about a forward on the wane.
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I would like to apologize to Al Wasl, players and all fans for the expulsion today. We've been provoked by one player since the last game, with offenses against our families and players. I think that i’m not deserved red card, but nothing justifies my attitude. Everyone knows my personality. I hope to return the affection I receive from all of you with goals, assists and good performances, as I have been trying to do since I arrived at Al Wasl in 2014. Thank you for understanding!
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