Dubai: Triumphant Sharjah coach Abdul Aziz Al Anbari said a second Arabian Gulf League (AGL) title is possible even though the road ahead is long and tough.
A 10-man Sharjah snatched a 4-3 penalty shoot-out win against a dominant Shabab Al Ahli Dubai to lay their hands on their first-ever Arabian Gulf Super Cup to kick off the new season at Al Nasr’s Al Maktoum Stadium late on Saturday.
Down by a player after an instant red card at the half-hour mark to winger Al Hassan Saleh, Sharjah played a defensive, waiting game to deny the Shabab Al Ahli Dubai players during regulation period and ultimately win 4-3 in the shoot-out.
“My hope is that this team sticks to what they did last year. It won’t be easy to be champions again but if we work hard and keep close to the top four or five teams, I think it is possible to win a second league title,” Al Anbari told media.
“We have won the first trophy of the season and now we must think only of the positive things if we want to be champions again. No doubt, it will be difficult for us to maintain this level of football, but I can be sure that my players will be ready to double their efforts towards this goal,” he added.
Sharjah, known as the ‘King,’ won the league title since the last time in 1996 last season. This is also a personal triumph for Al Anbari as he becomes the first-ever Emirati coach to win the league in the history of UAE football. “I think Sharjah gets a fresh character with a second trophy. As a club, we have always wanted to be among the top teams challenging for trophies. Now we have two trophies and our ambitions and expectations will always rise now,” Al Anbari admitted.
“We need to be careful as we will be representing the UAE at the Asian Champions League while also trying to win some more trophies. It is not going to be easy at all, but I am confident we can hope to achieve all our goals by the end of next season,” he added.
Shabab Al Ahli Dubai coach Rodolfo Arruabarrena shrugged off the loss as a normal day in office. “If losing has affected our team, then it is left up to me and my team to motivate our players back for the challenges that lie ahead,” the Argentine said.
“We cannot brood on this defeat for too long. We did all we could and yet, we couldn’t get a goal that would give us the first trophy of this season. We need to bounce back as soon as possible and start preparing the team for the first round next week. We are a big team that has enough character and resilience to face challenges ahead,” he added.
Shabab Al Ahli Dubai will kick off the Arabian Gulf League next weekend when they travel to Hatta for their first round match on September 19 while Sharjah will entertain new entrants Khorfakkan later the same day. “My team selection will be based on the readiness of players. I don’t differentiate between big names and small ones. I will use only those who are ready for the challenges ahead,” Arruabarrena said.