Al Dhafra stunned fancied Sharjah, while Shabab Al Ahli Dubai thrashed Al Wasl to set up an engrossing final for the UAE President’s Cup to be played towards the end of the season.
Coming in as former eight-time champions, The King woke up quite late but went down 1-2 against Al Dhafra in the early semi-final played at the Bani Yas Stadium in Abu Dhabi, while Shabab Al Ahli Dubai fought their way from a one-goal deficit to thrash fellow Dubai team Al Wasl 5-1 in the second semi-final later in the night. The date for the final will be decided later.
Shabab Al Ahli Dubai looked the more enterprising of the two teams as they attacked from the whistle. Ahmad Khalil was the first to have a look on the Cheetahs’ goal as early as in the third minute, but an alert Humaid Ali ensured the safety of his goal. Two minutes later they threatened again, this time Emiliano Vecchio’s free kick sailing a bit too wide to do any harm to the Al Wasl goal.
Al Wasl settled in quickly after those initial forays and responded strongly in the eighth minute when skipper Caio Canedo’s shot at goal grazing past a defender for a corner. The Cheetahs got lucky in the 22nd minute when referee Ahmad Salim Khalfan consulted the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) for a tug on Fabio De Lima by Mohammad Marzouq to award a penalty. Skipper Canedo coolly placed to the left of Majid Nasser to give Al Wasl the lead in the 23rd minute and bring some life into the encounter.
Despite the goal, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai continued pressing forward and nearly came close to an equalizer on a couple of occasions, but Ali saved off Luvannor header in the 32nd minute and then Esmail Al Hammadi saw his header go wide off a free kick in the 37th minute.
However, the team from across the Dubai Creek final got the leveler into first half injury period when Walid Abbas’ dipping header off a Luvannor cross found the far corner of the Al Wasl goal.
The Shabab Al Ahli Dubai hard work and poise continued to show early in the second half as well as Al Hammadi played a quick one-two with Khalil, but the former took too long to have a crack at goal and was dispossessed. The Deira team didn’t have to wait too long to take the lead as Brazilian Luvannor darted in to meet a lovely ball from Vecchio to lob over an advancing Ali in the 54th minute.
Mauro Diaz put the issue beyond doubt for Shabab Al Ahli Dubai in the 65th minute when his shot from well outside the box went off defender Abdullah Jassim Ali to make it 3-1. However, that was not the end as Al Wasl had a wonderful opportunity to keep themselves in the match when they got their second penalty in the 68th minute following a foul on De Lima. Nasser managed to save the spot kick, but De Lima who tapped in the rebound into an empty goal was pulled off-side.
Playmaker Majid Hassan heaped further misery in the 81st minute when his stinging strike from outside the area went past a sprawled Ali on the Al Wasl goal. And then substitute Jaimen Ayovi got his name on th score sheet when he accepted a pass from Abbas and slammed past Ali to complete the rout.
In the day’s first semi-final, Al Dhafra scored two late second half goals and then withstood intense pressure for a well-deserved 2-1 win against former eight-time champions Sharjah. Diego Rigonato dragged home the opening goal in the 65th minute, while Romulo Dos Santos’ header found the far corner of the Sharjah goal in the 79th minute.
Sharjah reacted a bit too late and managed to pull one back with a minute remaining for the full-time whistle when a Ryan Mendes header found its way in. Referee Adel Al Naqbi handed The King five additional minutes, but Al Dhafra fell back in numbers and managed to hold them at bay.
Al Dhafra x Sharjah 2-1
Shabab Al Ahli Dubai x Al Wasl 5-1