Abu Dhabi: Goalkeeper Majed Nasser’s spot-kick heroics in a penalty shootout led to manager Cosmin Olaroiu winning his first match in charge of Al Ahli against his former club Al Ain in the Super Cup final at Al Jazira’s Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium on Friday night.
The flamboyant keeper guessed correctly to deny Omar Abdul Rahman and Ebrahim Diaky from the spot to ensure his side prevailed 3-2 on penalties after a goalless 90 minutes.
Al Ahli’s Jociel Ferreira, Hugo Viana and Abdul Aziz Al Sanqour all converted despite an early miss from Jimenez, but with only Asamoah Gyan and Faris Juma scoring for Al Ain after Ahmad Al Shamsi shot wide, Nasser’s guesswork proved pivotal.
Despite Al Ahli having the best of the early possession, it was Al Ain who had the first clear chance in front of goal. Put through by Al Ain’s new Brazilian midfielder Michel Bastos, Ghanaian striker Asamoah Gyan overhit his first touch past the keeper and was unable to turn the ball back into an open net on 15 minutes.
Gyan again threatened on the half-hour with a precision shot from outside the area, which came thundering back off the crossbar.
Al Ain’s momentum was punctured five minutes later, however, with an injury to captain Helal Saeed, who was replaced by Ahmad Al Shamsi. Saeed handed the captain’s armband over to Mirel Radoi.
Trouble flared at the beginning of the second half, with fans exchanging missiles and a few supporters mounting barricades dividing the sets of rival fans, but police quickly quelled the confrontation.
An early second-half throw-in by Bastos fell to Gyan in front of goal, but he was neatly dispossessed despite calls for a penalty.
Jociel Ferreira then had Al Ahli’s best chance before the hour after a pass from Luis Jimenez, but his shot from the edge of the area was palmed wide by Al Ain keeper Khalid Eisa.
Momentum turned in Al Ahli’s favour five minutes later when Esmail Al Hammadi’s running one-two and shot with Ferreira narrowly missed the target. Then, a clear call for penalty went unnoticed by the referee after Mohanad Salem brought down Jimenez.
Al Ain swapped Mohammad Ahmad for Hazza Salem and brought on Diaky for Khalid Abdul Rahman to bolster their midfield, while Al Ahli exchanged striker Ahmad Khalil for midfielder Amir Mubarak and left Ferreira up front alone. But the changes only solidified the stalemate, with both teams flailing in the searing heat and waiting longingly for the inevitable shootout.
Al Ahli’s Majed Hassan received a straight red card for an unnecessary tackle from behind on Omar Abdul Rahman on 90 minutes. But Al Ain were unable to turn that to their advantage with full-time fast approaching.
With the two sides locked at 0-0 after 90 minutes, the game went straight to penalties. Al Ain went first shooting towards the Al Ahli half of the stadium.
Al Ain’s Gyan converted while Jimenez’ effort was saved. But then Majed Nasser saved Omar Abul Rahman’s effort from the spot and Al Ain’s advantage was lost when Ferreira scored and Al Shamsi blasted wide. Hugo Viana put Al Ahli 2-1 ahead before both Al Ain’s Faris Juma and his rival on the other side Abdul Aziz Sanqour scored. But then Nasser saved Diaky’s decisive spot-kick to secure the victory.