Ten-man Al Ain scored on either side of half-time to assert their supremacy with a hard-fought 2-1 win against Al Wasl to lift the President’s Cup for a seventh time at the Zayed Sports City Stadium yesterday.
After defender Esmail Ahmad had prodded home from a corner kick in the third minute, it was Al Ain’s top scorer Marcus Berg rounding off a snap move five minutes into the second half to start the celebrations for a second trophy in as many weeks for the team from the Garden City. Al Wasl managed to pull back a consolation goal at the start of injury period.
Al Ain had wrapped up the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) title with an emphatic 5-0 thrashing of Al Dhafra last Saturday. They finished off the 22 rounds of the AGL with 16 wins, five draws and a loss to gather 53 points to mark the start of their Golden Jubilee celebrations.
With history heavily stacked in favour of The Boss after making the final 14 times so far, it was down to their experience and supremacy to account for opponents who have always been a major headache to them in the past. The last time the two clubs featured in the final was in 2007 with the club from Dubai running away 4-1 victors. But last night there was no danger of a flashback as the Omar Abdul Rahman-inspired Al Ain ran away with the match.
Attacking from the start, Al Ain didn’t have to wait for long to open the account as an unmarked Esmail Ahmad darted in to meet a looping Omar Abdul Rahman corner kick for the first goal in the third minute. They came close to doubling their advantage in the 22nd minute when Omar Abdul Rahman lay for Hussain Al Shahat, but the Egyptian winger’s meek try failed to beat Yousuf Al Zaabi on the Al Wasl goal.
The Al Zabeel boys came close to an equaliser in the very next minute as Caio Canedo advanced into the box, but got an extra touch on the ball before Khalid Eisa came and cleared to safety. Al Wasl were once again denied in the 25th minute when a Fabio de Lima free kick from 35 yards struck the cross-piece and bounced away.
Al Ain could have gone into the half-time break with a second goal, if it was not for a save by Al Zaabi to deny Berg during injury period. Sweden’s main striker for next month’s Fifa World Cup finally got himself on the scoresheet when he controlled a lovely through ball from Omar Abdul Rahman and drilled it home to the far corner giving Al Zaabi no chance.
With nothing to lose Al Wasl went on an all-out attack in search of an elusive goal and nearly got one in the 62nd minute when Lima went clear of his marker. But it was Eisa to the Al Ain rescue once again as he came out to dispossess the Brazilian. Al Wasl escaped on a couple of occasions thereafter — Omar chipping the ball wide with no one on goal in the 68th minute and then substitute Rayyan Aslam being denied by the Al Wasl goalkeeper in the 74th minute.
The champions were reduced to ten after Esmail Ahmad was shown a second yellow for a rash challenge. With one man less to handle Al Wasl went on the offensive and managed to score at the beginning of injury time when Caio Canedo struck to the left of Eisa.
But that was all Al Wasl could manage as Al Ain hung in for the remaining two minutes of extra time to send the majority crowd into wild celebrations.