Dubai: Shaikha Maitha Bint Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum labelled the final of the 18th Emirates Open Polo Championship a ‘horse race’ after spearheading her UAE Team to a gripping golden goal victory (10-9) over hosts Ghantoot on Friday evening.
The teams fought tooth-and-nail through five absorbing chukkers to end up tied at nine goals apiece at the final whistle. A sudden-death tie-breaker was enforced where the side that scored first would be declared the champions.
Argentine teen sensation Tommy Panelo, who delivered the performance of a lifetime, struck the match-winner to gift Shaikha Maitha a maiden Emirates Open trophy.
Panelo, 18, was adjudged Best Professional Player of the Match after scoring an incredible eight goals, while Yousuf Bin Dasmal was declared Best Emirati Player.
Shaikha Maitha summed up the match later: “[This was] one the toughest and most enjoyable finals. There wasn’t a point during the game where we felt safe.
“Minute by minute, play for play, goal for goal! It was the most competitive, clean, fast, open finals I’ve experienced.
“Team Ghantoot is a force, super mounted with a lot of horse power and last night was a horse race! It was so close, we got the winning goal in the extra chukker,” Shaikha Maitha added
“It could’ve gone either way and that’s what made it so exciting!
Panelo echoed Shaika Maitha’s sentiments when he said: “This is such an amazing feeling, to win such a prestigious tournament. It’s unbelievable.
“Shaikha Maitha is a great team leader and continually inspired us to raise our game, from the start of the tournament. I felt great today, full of confidence, and I think that helped me deliver a strong effort.
“Of course, I could not have done this without the support from such talented players like Fede Potobosky and Nacho Acuna. Polo is not an individual sport, it’s all about team work, and I think that’s where we excelled,” he added.
“But full credit to the Ghantoot Polo Team. They played a fantastic game today and I believe that we were just as good as each other on the day. In the end we got a little bit lucky. But, yes, it was an honour and privilege to play against guys like Yousuf [Bin Dasmal], Bautastia [Begueire], Cesar [Crespo] and Martin [Donovan].
“Congratulations to Shaikha Maitha and her team,” said Bin Dasmal. “They played a good strategic game. We lost to them earlier but we came here determined to do better. The whole team played a fantastic match, it was touch and go all the way. But in sport there is only one winner and today it was UAE Polo Team.”
The chief guest at the final was Shaikh Sultan Bin Falah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, son of Shaikh Falah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Founder and Chairman of the Ghantoot Racing & Polo Club. Also in attendance was Shaikh Khalid Bin Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy National Security Adviser.