Abu Dhabi: Many fans would not have envisaged Maserati Polo Team from closing in on the 2017 Emirates Open Polo Championship title after they suffered an abysmal defeat to the defending champions, Abu Dhabi Polo Team, when the two teams clashed in a qualification match earlier in the tournament.
However, the team that represent hosts, Ghantoot Racing & Polo Club, worked wonders to reach Friday’s final, in the UAE’s most prestigious polo tournament.
In contrast Abu Dhabi, led by the mercurial Faris Al Yabhouni, have made headlines for all the right reasons by winning all four of their league matches with dominant displays.
When they played Maserati in the qualifiers, Abu Dhabi dismantled Abdullah Bin Dasmal’s team for an authoritative 11-6 victory.
With the outstanding Santiao Cernadas running riot on the field, backed by fellow Argentine professionals, Patricio Cieza and Santiago Gomez Rozario, they have gone from strength to strength in the tournament, which they are looking to win for the second time.
“Right from the start, our goal was to retain the title,” said Al Yabhouni. “We are one match from doing so and if we keep playing like we have all through the tournament, we can realise our ambition.
“We treated all our rivals with utmost respect, but we also played with confidence and the right spirit.
“Polo is a team game and it is about more than one player. It’s about everyone trying to play an influential role and supporting each other at the same time,” he added.
“We took it one match at a time nowhere we are, looking to cap a great tournament by winning it for the second year in succession.”
In the qualifiers, Abu Dhabi also defeated Wolves Mahra 11-6, UAE Polo Team 6-2 and Desert Palm 7-6.
The contrasting path to the final will doubtless spur Maserati. Despite coming up against a team who beat them in the qualifiers, they will be full of confidence as they seek the best silverware of the UAE polo season.
There is a small change in the Maserati line-up with Ahmad Bin Dasmal replacing Abdullah.
Lucas Diego Alberdi, who has been outstanding all through the tournament, will once again line up alongside fellow Argentinian pros Gregorio Gelsosi and Felipe Llorente.
Llorene was responsible for Maserati reaching the final when he scored the match-winning penalty against Desert Palm in their final qualifier on Tuesday.
“It’s a tough game, but we will go into it with a good game-plan,” said Llorente.
“We have to be disciplined and try to control the game by holding possession and pulling Abu Dhabi out of their usual game.
“Finals are always a tight affair and could go either way. Abu Dhabi are a big threat but we will not allow them to overpower us easily,” he added.
While it is impossible to pinpoint how it will all end, but whichever way you look at it, Friday’s Emirates Open Polo Championship final is a fixture that defines the passion that the sport enjoys in the UAE and around the world.
Officially presented by Maserati –Premier Motors, the five-team tournament is one of the most prestigious events on the UAE’s polo calendar.
• What: Emirates Open Polo Championship final
• When: Friday, December 22
• Where: Ghantoot Racing & Polo Club
• Entrance: Free to the public
Maserati Polo Team
• Ahmad Bin Dasmal
• Lucas Diego Alberdi
• Gregorio Gelosi
• Felipe Llorente
Abu Dhabi Polo Team
• Faris Al Yabhouni
• Santiao Cernadas
• Patricio Cieza
• Santiago Gomez Rozario