O Al Ahli, formação orientada pelo espanhol Quique Flores, conquistou ontem a Taça do Presidente, ao bater na final o Al Shabab (4-3). Os golos da equipa onde foram apontados por Husain, Grafite, Jiménez e Al Hammadi. Quaresma não jogou.
Comentário alargado ao jogo em Inglês:
Al Ahli lift President's Cup after classic battle with Al ShababAl Shabab striker Edgar finished his first appearance in a President’s Cup final with an unwanted hat-trick as his late own goal confirmed a thrilling 4-3 win for 10-man Al Ahli.
The Brazilian had earlier scored a brace either side of half-time to haul his side onto level terms after Ahli had raced into a 2-0 lead in the first 15 minutes as Adnan Hussein Al Beloshi and Grafite scored.
Shabab keeper Salem Abdulla then saved a penalty from the Pro League’s International Player of the Year but less than two minutes later was wrong-footed by a Luis Jimenez free-kick from wide on the left.
A penalty from Ciel tied the scores again at 3-3 with less than 10 minutes to go but Edgar would apply the decisive touch at the wrong end in the 85th minute as Ismail Al Hamad’s driven centre rebounded off him and into an empty net.
The Red Knights were reduced to 10 men before the end though as talisman Grafite was shown a second yellow card for a crude foul on Hassan Ibrahim.
The result means Ahli have drawn level with Sharjah as the tournament’s most successful club with eight titles. Defeat was tough on Shabab though who had shown resilience and heart to fight back twice in the game.
Ricardo Quaresma may have made headlines when he arrived in Dubai at the start of the year but he has not exactly dominated column inches since and was a notable absentee from Ahli's squad ahead of kick-off. Instead his place went to Al Beloshi who has proved a much more sound investment since he too arrived in January, from Pro League rivals Bani Yas.
And it was the UAE winger who gave the Red Knights the lead at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium with a little over five minutes gone. Walid Abbas failed to control a flick-on from Grafite on the edge of the box, allowing the ball to run through to Al Beloshi who showed great composure to beat Salem Abdulla in the Shabab goal.
Abbas was forced to make an excellent covering tackle to deny Grafite minutes later but Ahli had started in dominant mood and the Brazilian would double his side’s lead on the quarter-hour. This time Amir Mubarak Ghanim was allowed to weave across the box before sliding a lovely ball into the area that Grafite need only flick with the outside of his right boot to wrong-foot Abdulla.
Abbas was hauled off by coach Marcos Paqueta shortly afterwards but that wasn’t initially enough to turn the tide as Grafite spurned a couple of presentable opportunities to make it 3-0.
The third goal did arrive 13 minutes before the break but it went to the Hawks. Azizbek Haydarov had seen his drive turned behind by Majed Hassan’s block, but from the resulting corner Edgar beat Yousif Mohamed to power a header home.
The atmosphere inside the ground changed instantly as Shabab’s fans at the other end suddenly found their voice. And spurred on it was their team who finished the half stronger, with the goal-scorer and Esam Dhahi failing to test Majed Naser when well placed.
Indeed Shabab were incensed as referee Fahad Al Qasar blew his whistle for half-time as moments earlier he had brought a promising attack to a halt with a second ball on the pitch.
An extended half-time break might have been expected to stall Shabab’s progress but instead they drew level within four minutes of the restart. Ciel’s quick free-kick caught Ahli right-back Abdulaziz Haikal fast asleep and allowed Luiz Henrique the time and space to draw Naser out of his goal and lay on a second goal for compatriot Edgar.
The banner unfurled at kick-off by Red Knights fans predicting an eighth President’s Cup win was beginning to look a little foolhardy. Yet following a breathless eight minutes they were back in front.
In that time Hawks keeper Abdulla was both hero and villain for his side. Having initially made up for giving away a penalty for crashing into Al Beloshi by saving Grafite’s penalty, moments later he misjudged the flight of Jimenez’s floated free-kick, allowing it to drift over his head and into the far top corner.
Remarkably a roller-coaster of a match took another turn as Abdulaziz Haikal’s reckless challenge on Luiz Henrique gave Ciel the chance to equalise from the spot. He took it gleefully.
But within four minutes Ahli had established a third and final lead. Al Hamadi did brilliantly to hammer the ball across goal and Edgar had no time to react or get out of the way.
Grafite was rightly ordered off the field before the end but despite a late scare which saw Saood Surour head off the line, the Red Knights held on in a game that will live long in the memories of those who were here to see it.
The two Dubai-based clubs served up an enthralling game in the capital, which was easily one of the greatest President’s Cup final of recent times. Ahli came out of the blocks quickly and were well worth their 2-0 lead but as has been the case so many times this season Shabab refused to lie down. The own goal was a cruel way for Edgar to sign off from an impressive first season in the UAE.
Grafite sees red
The challenge that felled Ibrahim late on, while perhaps not malicious, was bade enough to earn a red all on its own. His first booking had come for a deliberate handball so while he may protested the Brazilian can really have no complaints.
What MOTD’s Alan Hansen would have made of this final is anyone’s guess. Both sides attacked with verve but defended with nerves. Each looked susceptible to diagonal balls all evening and at least six of the seven goals came from mistakes at the back.
MAN OF THE MATCH – Luis Jimenez (Ahli)
Going forward the Red Knights had a number of key performers, not least Al Beloshi and Al Hamadi yet it was the Chilean who supplied the final’s most composed performance. Having given his side a lead at 3-2 he was back in his own box to head away Shabab pressure.