Dubai: Coach Ivan Leko has questioned the use and utility of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) after Al Ain caved in to a 2-3 loss at the hands of defending champions Sharjah in Round Three of the Arabian Gulf League (AGL), late on Thursday.
Tied 1-1 at half-time, the former 13-time league champions were cruising towards a 2-1 win with Bandar Al Ahbabi cancelling out Igor Coronado’s eleventh minute opener, and Fo-Doh Kodjo Laba had added a second in the 52nd minute.
Laba’s second goal in the 69th was disallowed as an off-side by official Mohammad Abdullah after consulting VAR. The match laboured on till Coronado scored his second in the 83rd minute to draw level with The Boss.
With the match heading for a draw, Salem Sultan struck to give the home side the three points that puts them at the top of the standings with nine points after three rounds.
“That one decision on disallowing Laba’s goal took away all our efforts,” Leko fumed.
“We were the better team and we were controlling the match so much that it looked as though Sharjah were nowhere close to their best. And then came the VAR decision and we dropped our level,” he added.
The 41-year-old Croatian who formerly played professionally as a midfielder for Malaga and Club Brugge, was all praise for Sharjah’s playmaker Igor Coronado, who scored twice and set up the match-winner. “Coronado was the best player in the league last year, and he has become even better this season,” Leko said.
“We’ve been without some of our players such as Caio Canedo, Abdul Rahman Meziane and Mohammad Abdul Rahman and once they are back then we will only get stronger,” he promised.
Sharjah coach Abdul Aziz Al Anbari was thrilled at the spirit displayed by his team. “We are the defending champions and every other team looks at us as a target. We were down and out, and yet we stuck together as a team and won the three points,” Al Anbari said.
“Igor is always someone who excels at what he does. He was no different against Al Ain as he showed his true class,” he added.
The AGL will once again take a short break to allow fixtures of the Arabian Gulf Cup to be played week before the fourth round of matches on October 18-19.
Sharjah x Al Ain 3-2
Al Jazira x Shabab Al Ahli Dubai 0-0
Al Nasr x Al Dhafrah 1-2
Hatta x Kalba 1-0