Bahrain club denies Maradona first Dubai trophy
Diego Maradona's first season at Al Wasl went from bad to worse on Sunday.
Desperate for some silverware to offset an otherwise disappointing season, Maradona was counting on his team beating Bahrain's Al Muharraq to win the GCC Champions League crown. After all, his Dubai side was up 3-1 after the first leg and playing at home in front of a packed stadium in the second leg Sunday.
But Al Muharraq had other ideas.
Jamal Abraro closed the gap in the ninth minute with a header that got past Al Wasl keeper Majed Naser. Naser, who earlier this year was given a lengthy ban for hitting an opposition coach, responded to the goal by head-butting an Al Muharraq player, which got him sent off.
Yasser Salim drew Al Wasl level in the game for a 4-2 aggregate lead with a long strike in the 45th. But Al Muharraq answered with two second-half goals to take a 3-1 lead on the night and crucially to draw even at 4-4 on aggregate.
Al Wasl's Essa Ali was later involved in another head-butting incident in the 78th and was also sent off.
Al Muharraq tried to press its numerical advantage in the final 12 minutes, but couldn't convert any of several good chances.
The match went to penalties and Al Muharraq sealed the win when keeper Abdullah al-Kaby blocked a shot by Mubarak Hassan. Argentina international Juan Ignacio Mercier also missed for Al Wasl.
''We achieved an important win today,'' said Al Muharraq Coach Eisa Sadoon, whose team has links to the country's royal family. ''It's not only for Al Muharraq but for all of the kingdom of Bahrain. We have been waiting 27 years to win this and we were able to achieve this.
''It was a tough match especially after a 3-1 loss at home. We managed to take control of the game and contain Al Wasl's foreign players. The sending off of Nasser gave us a boost.''
A dejected Maradona praised Al Muharraq and said his game plan was thrown into disarray when Nasser was sent off.
''The opponent deserved the win today no doubt about it,'' Maradona said. ''They took the match out of our hands and took total control of the midfield. They were more focused and more organized and may have won it on their own before penalties. This is the truth. Of course, it's very different playing 11 on 11 rather than 11 on 9.''
The defeat caps a disappointing season for the man who led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup and is regarded among the greatest ever players. He signed a two-year deal in May with promises of returning Al Wasl to glory but the team finished the season in eight place in the 12-team league and without any trophies.
''The circumstances tonight didn't help and I couldn't have done any better,'' Maradona said. ''I don't regret anything I did this season. We did all we can and I will continue. I have a commitment with Al Wasl and preparations are already under way for next season.''