Dubai: The Al Ain juggernaut continued to roll with a smashing 6-0 tennis-like score against Shabab Al Ahli Dubai in the first semi-final of the 2018 President’s Cup in Abu Dhabi Wednesday.
‘The Boss’ – who last week clinched a record 13th title in the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) with one round still to spare – were smooth in their dominance over the club from Dubai. They opened the scoring in the very fourth minute through Caio Fernandes and then doubled their lead in the ninth minute when Egyptian Hussain Al Shahat headed home over Majid Nasser.
They added a third in the 65th minute when Sweden’s Marcus Berg converted from the spot, while Fernandes got his second in the 74th with an easy tap-in. Ahmad Khalil came in as a substitute and converted a second penalty to make it 5-0 in the 83rd minute. Bandar Al Ahbabi rounded off the scoring during injury period to complete a comprehensive rout.
Marking their golden jubilee year, Al Ain have been in awesome form this season while heading towards notching the highest points tally in the league. Barring a surprising 1-3 loss to Sharjah in Round 17 in the last week of February, the team from the Garden City have proved they are head over shoulders from the rest with 15 wins, five draws for their 50 points so far with a goal difference of 37.
Their quarter-final against Diego Maradona-coached Fujairah Club too was an engrossing affair with Al Ain fighting back from a goal down to seal an emphatic 4-2 win and set a meeting with Shabab Al Ahli Dubai in the first semi-final. The second semi-final was scheduled to be played between Al Wahda and Al Wasl at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain later Wednesday.
In total control
Al Ain started off on a frenetic pace showing loads of urgency and intensity on the ball. They really didn’t have to wait for long before this initial flurry fetched them the early goal. A move that started from the right saw Marcus Berg being denied by Majid Nasser, but the goalkeeper’s clearance landed at the feet of a grateful Fernandes who followed through and punched into an empty goal in the fourth minute.
Five minutes later, Al Shahat doubled the score as he made a perfect run on an Omar Abdul Rahman through ball to head over an advancing Nasser. Referee Yaqoub Al Hammadi blew for off-side, but after consultation with the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), Al Ain had their second chance of celebrating for the second time on the evening.
Both sides had second-half chances with Shabab Al Ahli Dubai coming close on an Erceg Ante freekick in the 49th minute, and then Omar Abdul Rahman put his freekick wide for Al Ain in the 55th. Ten minutes on, they were in total control after the VAR decreed that Berg had been brought down by Ebrahim and the AGL’s highest scorer sent Nasser the wrong way to make it 3-0.
Al Ain 6 Shabab Al Ahli Dubai 0