ABU DHABI - Hosts Al-Wahda opened the Club
World Cup with Brazilians Hugo and Fernando Baiano scoring in a
3-0 victory over Oceania champions Hekari United on Wednesday.
Hugo and Baiano, two of UAE champions Al-Wahda's three
Brazilians, scored in the last five minutes of the first half to
virtually put the match beyond Hekari, a team founded in Papua
New Guinea only seven years ago.
Fears that the home team might fail to progress from the
opening match as Al-Ahli did last year when they lost to
Auckland City, disappointing the organisers and FIFA, were
dispelled after a nervous opening half hour.
"The pressure on the team was great, I could feel it from
outside, some of our players couldn't cope with it," Al-Wahda's
Austrian coach Josef Hickersberger told the post-match news
"Hekari United started well with long balls and they are
good in the air. We started to play the same way, which is not
our style," he added.
"Fortunately, we have experienced players. The Brazilians
turned the match around with help from our UAE internationals."
Hekari's coach Tommy Mana, who is from the Solomon Islands
like several of his players, said: "For any team to beat
Al-Wahda they will have to work very hard."
Al-Wahda face Asian champions Seongnam of South Korea in
their quarter-final on Saturday. Concacaf champions Pachuca of
Mexico meet Africa's TP Mazembe of DR Congo in the first
quarter-final on Friday.
Brazil's Internacional, the South American champions, and
Europe's Inter Milan have byes into the semi-finals.
Some rudimentary defending from both sides, particularly
Hekari, made for some thrills at both ends, but Al-Wahda made
better use of their possession with Brazilian holding midfielder
Magrao a commanding figure in the middle of the park.
Al-Wahda went ahead when a high cross from the right fell to
Mahmood al-Hammadi on the left of the box. He brought the ball
down for fellow midfielder Hugo to unleash a low, left-footed
shot from the edge that went inside the far past.
Four minutes later, Baiano ran onto a fine through ball from
al-Hammadi into the box on the right and beat keeper Simione
Tamanisau with a low shot inside the near post.
Substitute Adulraheem Jumaa headed the third 19 minutes from
time from a cross from the left which left-back Koriak Upiaga
and Tamanisau failed to clear.
A 23,800 crowd in the 42,000-capacity Mohammed bin Zayed
stadium will have fallen short of UAE expectations as they
attempt to persuade FIFA to bring the tournament back to Abu
Dhabi in 2013 after it returns to Japan for the next two years.
Victory for Al-Wahda, however, should boost the numbers in
their next match.
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