Dubai: Hatta’s first ever top-flight Arabian Gulf League appearance ended admirably on Friday when they held last season’s Arabian Gulf Cup champions Al Wahda to a goalless draw at home.
Returning to their own stadium, after renovation work had forced them to play the second of their opening two Arabian Gulf Cup losses at Al Nasr’s ground in Dubai last week, seemed to pay off dividends for the Tornadoes as they were back among their own supporters.
The result was disappointing for the visiting Clarets as they finished third last season behind champions Al Ahli and second-placed Al Ain.
Javier Aguirre’s side are hoping to build upon that finish buoyed by their cup win, and as such they were expected to make light work of the newly promoted minnows who won the UAE’s second tier championship last season.
The hosts were lucky to go in at the break with a clean sheet. Al Wahda’s Suhail Al Mansouri hit the crossbar inside the first 10 minutes and Jorge Valdivia had an effort cleared off the line after the half hour by Hatta captain Moussa Al Baloushi.
Last season’s top scorer Sebastian Tagliabue also struck over for the visitors just before half time.
The hosts should have done more from an early free-kick but both Adrian Ropotan and Mahmoud Al Baloushi were caught napping in front of goal. A similar Free-kick was headed over by Eisa Shirouk moments later.
Al Wahda’s new signing Balazs Dzsudzsak was making his league debut after joining from Turkey’s Bursaspor last month.
But he showed little of the class that had earned him international recognition at Euro 2016, where he scored two identical Free-kicks in an impressive 3-3 group stage draw against eventual champions Portugal in Lyon this summer.
His best chance came from a long throw-in that he ran onto unhindered but failed to convert. He also planted one of his Portugal range Free-kicks straight into the wall as he seemed to struggle with the heat.
The tempo increased in the second half and Al Wahda came close as Tagliabue struck across an empty goalmouth and Al Mansouri rounded several defenders only to see his effort kept out by Obaid Raihan.
Hatta parked the bus and went on their own charge before the end with Ropotan hitting over from a Free-kick and Issiaka Ouedraogo running into the keeper from a one-on-one.
At the other end Valdivia was again denied from a shot just before the line by Ali Al Khaja. But Hatta held on for a point and a point well made, they may be underdogs, but they can’t be taken lightly.
In Friday’s other Arabian Gulf League opener fellow newly promoted side Ittihad Kalba who finished second behind Hatta last season beat Dibba Fujairah 1-0 away thanks to a 68th minute strike from Mihai Alexandru.