Dubai: The Emirates Open Polo Championship International got off to a thrilling start under brilliant sunshine and perfect playing conditions at the Ghantoot Racing & Polo Club.
The opening day’s action in the 15-handicap tournament saw Habtoor Polo Team beat Desert Palm Polo Team 9-8, while UAE Polo Team edged past Ghantoot Polo Team 8-6 in the second match.
Both Habtoor and Desert Palm looked well prepared, but it was the latter who grabbed the early advantage when they led by two goals to one at the end of the first of six chukkers. However, Habtoor raised the stakes in the second with Justo Cuitino and Marcos Araya scoring a brace.
Well-struck goals by Juan Pedro and Ramiro Cordero ensured Desert Palm stay in the hunt as the second chukker ended with Habtoor up 5-4.
Pedro and Cordero were also the goal scorers in the third as Habtoor failed to find the target.
Rashed Al Bawardi opening his account for the tournament when he struck in the fourth chukker, with the match looking evenly poised.
The turning point came in the fifth chukker when Habtoor Al Habtoor and Araya pumping in a brace as Desert Palm drew a blank.
In the sixth and final chukker with the score tied at 8-8, Argentinian Araya showed why is regarded as one of best players on the circuit when he scored the match-winner that clinched a thrilling victory of Habtoor Polo Team.
Argentine Federico Von Potobsky was the star as the Shaikha Maitha Bint Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum-led UAE polo team dominated Ghantoot for a two goal victory. Potobsky pumped in five goals in all, including three beauties in the fourth chukker to ensure his team would go away the winner. Although he was outscored by Martin Donovan, who scored six goals, the hosts Ghantoot had to settle for defeat, which means that they must defeat Habtoor Polo Team in their second league match on Friday, to keep their title hopes alive.
Desert Palm will also be looking to beat Abu Dhabi Polo Team when they play their second match on Wednesday, a day when the opening day’s winners, UAE and Habtoor meet in a much-anticipated game.