Abu Dhabi: Al Wahda shift their focus on to the crucial Arabian Gulf League fixture against Al Ain after finishing at the top of table by settling for a 1-1 draw against Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia in their final AFC Champions League Group B fixture at the King Abdullah Sport City Stadium on Tuesday. Al Wahda, who qualified for the round of 16 for the first time since 2007, accumulated 13 points from six outings, while Al Ittihad in second spot managed 11 points in total.
Both teams, having already qualified for the round of 16, were playing to claim the top spot in the group. After a goalless first session, the deadlock was broken for the hosts by Brazilian Romarinho in the 68th minute. Young midfielder Khalid Al Samiri found Romarinho with a measured chip and he slotted the ball into the far corner of the goal.
However, the lead didn’t last long and three minutes later, Al Wahda struck. Mohammad Al Menhali found Tareq Al Khaddeim with a measured pass before sprinting into the box to collect the return pass.
Al Menhali’s first attempt was blocked by Al Ittihad goalkeeper Fawaz Al Qarni, the ball rebounded but he made sure his second attempt was in the back of the net.
Al Wahda’s qualification for the next year’s AFC Champion League is in doubt as they are currently placed fifth in the AGL. Only a win in the last outing against Al Ain will allow them to finish in the top four.
“I congratulate my team for the great hard work they have done since the beginning of this tournament. They have done well in this contest despite them having a big game lined up in Abu Dhabi,” said Al Wahda coach Henk Ten Cate, who is set to leave the team after the final AGL fixture against Al Ain. “I have many offers from clubs but this is not the reason for this decision to leave. My desire is to go home and stay with my family in the coming period.
Ten Cate added that he and his team are focused for the Al Ain match and it will be great to sign off with a win.
Al Ain lost their last AFC Champions League fixture on Monday against Esteghlal of Iran 2-1. Coach Juan Carlos Garrido is under tremendous pressure to ensure that the team don’t slip-up and miss out on the opportunity of playing in the Champions League.
“The game against Esteghal was balanced from my point of view but the referee gave the team an invalid penalty kick at the start of the second half which hurt us.
“We are well aware of the importance of our next game against Al Wahda and we are determined to win and qualify for the AFC Champions League next season. We are keen to provide the best,” said Garrido.
Meanwhile, Al Wasl ended their Champions League group fixture with a humiliating 5-1 loss against Al Zawraa at home. Al Wasl ended their campaign with just three points in last place while Al Zawraa with eight points finished in third place.