Striker Sebastian Tagliabue ran the show as Al Wahda romped to a 4-2 victory over city rivals Al Jazira in a postponed match of Arabian Gulf League matchweek 11 at Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium.
A game of two halves saw Al Jazira dominate the first 45 minutes before collapsing in the second half.
The hosts came out of the blocks racing as Ali Mabkhout was miraculously denied an opener inside two minutes. The Al Jazira captain chased a long pass behind Al Wahda defence and fired on the half volley from an angle, beating goalkeeper Mohamed Al Shamsi. The striker was unlucky as his effort ricocheted off both posts before being cleared into safety.
The Pride of Abu Dhabi thought they had finally broken the deadlock five minutes before the end of the first half, when playmaker Khalfan Mubarak sent Romarinho through on goal with a pinpoint overhead pass, but the Brazilian’s finish crawled just wide of the post.
Two minutes later, midfielder Mohamed Jamal exchanged a one-two with Mabkhout, moving inside Al Wahda’s box and clear on goal. He attempted a left-footed finish but goalkeeper Mohamed Al Shamsi rescued his side.
The Clarets sensed the danger and responded instantly, their own skipper Tagliabue getting on the end of a Balazs Dzsudzsak cross from the left to put his side in front against the run of play in the 43rd minute.
Whatever coach Laurentiu Reghecampf said to his men at the break worked magic, as the visitors started the second half with a bang. Mohamed Al Menhali, deployed in a new right-wing role in Mourad Batna’s absence found Tagliabue with a well-weighted pass and the Argentine applied the finish into the bottom corner for his tenth league goal of the season to double Al Wahda’s lead six minutes after the restart.
Tagliabue completed the hat-trick, demonstrating his poacher instinct to find space inside Al Jazira’s penalty area and meet Rim Chang-woo’s cross from the left to drive home Al Wahda’s third of the night in the 71st minute.
Substitutes Khalid Bawazir and Mohamed Al Akberi combined to heap more misery on Henk ten Cate’s men as the former crossed for Al Akberi to make it 4-0 eight minutes from time.
Al Jazira mounted a late attempt at a comeback. First, substitute Ahmed Al Hashemi sent a looping header past Al Shamsi to make it 4-1 in the 88th minute. Then, it was Romarinho’s turn, and the Brazilian outmuscled his marker to sweep home Mbark Boussoufa’s through pass in the dying seconds of the match to half the deficit.
The hosts renaissance was too little to late as Al Wahda walked away with the three points, moving within touching distance of leaders Al Wasl and Al Ain, with 23 points. Al Jazira remain fifth with 16 points, missing a chance to overtake Al Nasr into a top four place.
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