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Arruabarrena defends Al Wasl after cup controversy

Cheetahs progress to semis after playing on to score after one of Al Nasr’s men was down

Gulf News

Dubai: Al Wasl coach Rodolfo Arruabarrena defended his players after they progressed to the Arabian Gulf Cup semis via a controversial lone goal against Al Nasr in Friday’s quarter-final second leg.

The Cheetahs played on while Al Nasr had a man down to get the game’s only goal through Caio Correa on 48 minutes. Added to their earlier 2-2 home draw in December, this latest away result was decisive in sending Al Wasl through 3-2 on aggregate.

But there were angry scenes after the game with Al Nasr’s Khalid Jalil confronting Ronaldo Mendes, the player who had refused to put the ball out. Arruabarrena denied it was a lack of sportsmanship, however.

“I’ve told my players not to stop when a player is down until the referee has blown his whistle,” said the Argentine. “It’s up to the referee and his assistants to control the situation as they are closer to the action. Things are simple and the referee has the last word.

“The goal was not preceded by any error, but I understand Al Nasr’s position. That is why referees must deal cautiously with such confrontations.”

Al Nasr coach Ivan Jovanovic said: “Unfortunately, we lost the game with one action after Al Wasl took advantage of our player having stopped, and this goal decided who passed to the next round. Personally, there doesn’t exist fair play if the referee doesn’t stop the game.

“It was a very important game for us and, of course, we are very disappointed with how we lost this game, but I never make any comment on the referee there is a committee that can do this, not me.”

In Friday’s other Arabian Gulf Cup quarter-final second leg, Al Wahda beat Al Ain 5-1 at home to progress 7-2 on aggregate. Ahmad Khalil cancelled out Mourad Batna’s ninth-minute opener on 31 minutes but then Al Wahda fought back with goals from Tariq Ahmad, Sebastian Tagliabue, Mohammad Al Shehhi and Mohammad Al Akbari on minutes 41, 62, 78 and 79.

Shabab Ahli and Dibba were the other two sides to progress to the semis with respective aggregate wins over Hatta 5-1 and Al Jazira 4-1 on Thursday.