Abu Dhabi: Al Jazira lifted the President's Cup for the second successive season last night — but unlike last year's easy win they had to sweat it out before posting a 3-1 victory over Bani Yas.
After playing second fiddle for much of the first half, it was their Brazilian star Ricardo Oliveira who gave them a crucial 2-1 lead at a time when Bani Yas were pressing hard. Oliviera's low free-kick pierced the defensive wall and found the near corner. That 71st-minute strike settled the nerves for Caio Junior's side before Ahmad Dada blasted home a third in the final minute.
Last year, Al Jazira had demolished city rivals Al Wahda 4-0 in the final.
"We knew we have had a very hard season but we played with our hearts and that is why we won the cup," said a delighted Oliveira, who had also scored twice in the semi-final and three times in the quarter-final.
Lucas Neill, who scored the seventh-minute opener for Al Jazira, said: "When I scored I thought maybe I was offside but I was not. It has been a great team effort."
His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, gave away the trophy and the medals to the finalists.
Earlier, the defending champions shot into an early lead in the most unexpected fashion.
Subait Khater snatched a loose ball from a corner and sent it sailing into the rival zone. The crowded goal area left the Bani Yas goalkeeper unsighted and Neill, the Australian defender who had advanced for the flag kick, nudged the ball home.
However, despite that early goal, it was Bani Yas who enjoyed the major share of the first half's action.
Haboosh Salbookh and Yousuf Jaber shot wide, while Francisco Yeste and Haboosh had shots saved by Ali Kashief.
Midway through the first half, Andre Senghor saw his header go wide from close range and Bani Yas were almost punished again through a swift counter-attack, only for Bare's header to go straight to keeper Mohammad Khalaf.
Bani Yas, however, were back on level terms immediately after the break. Substitute Nawaf Mubarak hit a brilliant curling shot from just outside the box and Kashief had no chance.
It was only after the equaliser that Al Jazira strung a few moves together and, though Yeste again shot wide at the other end, it was Al Jazira on the attack. A fierce free-kick by Delgado was parried to safety and Al Jazira looked to be gaining in confidence. Then Oliviera struck with a free-kick that cut through the defensive wall in the 71st minute.
Denied by luck
Bani Yas threw everything into the attack but Senghor was unlucky as twice he saw his headers miss the mark and, with the minutes ticking away, Al Jazira struck off another counter-attack. Diaky sent substitute Dada through and the Al Jazira forward beat one defender and then slotted home to bury Bani Yas' hopes of a long-awaited success.