Dubai: Sharjah beat Al Ain 1-0 in a pulsating UAE Super Cup clash at the Al Maktoum Stadium tonight in front of a capacity 15,000 crowd to win the first title of 2023.
The 15th edition began at a hectic pace with early chances at both ends with the boisterous fans willing their teams on but after the frantic opening five minutes both sets of players settled down and began to find time on the ball.
Al Ain’s left midfielder Adriy Yarmolenko was looking particularly dangerous and found Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba free in the box but the striker - who scored a 97th minute winner in the UAE Pro League clash against Al-Ittihad Kalba last Friday - was unable to get his shot away. Yarmolenko, who previously plied his trade in the English Premier League with West Ham United, then went close with a curling effort after which came sustained pressure from Sharjah, the only side to have beaten Al Ain in the league last season.
Bosnian international Miralem Pjanic found space on the left hand side and his drilled cross was met by Djaniny but Khalid Eisa pulled of a smart save down to his right. The Kings then lost centre back Kostas Manolas to a groin injury after just 10 minutes and were forced into a defensive reshuffle with Gustavo Alemoa brought on but they almost broke the deadlock seconds later. A deep cross at the back post by Ousmane Camara was met by Brazilian Luanzinho but his glancing header flashed just wide of the post.
Then Caio Lucas tried his luck from 30 yards with a drilled effort but Eisa did well to get down and smother the powerful shot. ADNOC Pro League titleholders Al Ain tried to slow the tempo of the game after the early scares but Sharjah were quick to press and win the ball back. The UAE President’s Cup champions had bossed the first half but almost fell behind when Soufiane Rahimi rattled the crossbar from an impossible angle for Serhiy Rebrov’s men. But Sharjah eventually broke the deadlock after a corner was put through his own net by Fo-Doh Laba and The Kings deservedly went into the half time break 1-0 up following their dominating display.
Rebrov’s half-time team talk seemed to have done the trick as Al Zaeem came out in the second period with fire in their belly and they immediately had Sharjah on the back foot. Fo-Doh Laba, desperate to make amends for his unfortunate own goal, brought out an outstanding save from Adel Al-Hosani. His header looked destined for the top corner but the keeper’s outstanding reflexes meant Sharjah retained their narrow lead.
Rebrov, the former Tottenham and Dynamo Kyiv striker, was growing increasingly frustrated on the touchline as his side - participating in the UAE Super Cup for the seventh time and gunning for their fourth title - toiled without success. Ahmed Barman almost found himself through on goal after a neat exchange with Erik Menezes but a last ditch tackle by Emirati Shahin Abdulrahman prevented the midfielder from having a shot.
12 minutes of injury time were added on after the 90 and Al Ain threw everything they had at Sharjah. They pushed towering centre back Kouame Autonne in attack and launched the ball long into box hoping it would fall to one of the men in white. Tensions began to boil over as Sharjah coach Olaroiu Cosmin was shown the red card but it mattered little in the end as The Kings stood firm to secure their second UAE Super Cup title in what was their third appearance in the final.