Players of Shabab Al Ahli and Al Jazira in action during their Arabian Gulf League Cup semi-final match at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Friday.
Defending champions Shabab Al Ahli Dubai are only a win away from retaining their Arabian Gulf League Cup crown, after Rodolfo Arruabarrena’s men bearded Al Jazira in their own den at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in the capital on Friday.
The Pride of Abu Dhabi were vanquished 2-4 in the tie-breaker, after both teams were locked 2-2 at the end of 90 minutes of regular play.
Omar Abdulrahman, who equalised for the hosts, and Musallam Fayez missed their penalties in the shoot-out. The win thus fires Arruabarrena’s men into the final.
Earlier, the match began with neither team on the ascendancy. Both Shabab Al Ahli and Al Jazira had a corner each before the deadlock was broken in the 29th minute by the team from Dubai when Mohammed Marzooq’s right-footed shot from the centre of the penalty box bulged the right side of the net, leaving Adel Abubaker in the Al Jazira goal beaten all ends up.
Shabab Al Ahli forced another corner in the 36th minute of the half -- this time conceded by Al Jazira’s Salem Obaid -- but without any result.
Shabab Al Ahli began to apply more pressure in injury time at the end of the first 45 minutes. First, a pass from Marzooq saw Leonardo’s right-footed shot from the left side of the box ram into the left post.
Then Abdullah Al Naqbi, receiving a pass from Harib Abdalla Suhail, failed to find the net from the centre of the box, with his shot sending the ball wide off the left post. Leonardo was again in the action, but his right-footed shot from the centre of the box was saved.
Al Jazira were forced to effect a substitution three minutes into injury time, as Mohammed Fawzi was hurt in action, and the defender thus gave way to a more attacking Fayez in midfield.
Shabab Al Ahli thus went into the lemon break, with their one-goal lead intact. Possession was more or less equally shared, with Shabab Al Ahli having two shots at goal as against one by Al Jazira. However, only Marzooq’s shot was the difference between the two teams at that stage.
The second half saw Al Jazira make an important change — reflecting Marcel Keizer’s intention to strengthen the attack — with their talismanic forward Ali Ahmed Mabkhout replacing midfielder Ahmed Mahmoud.
Al Jazira’s Obaid was shown the yellow for a foul, their first yellow of the night after Shabab Al Ahli’s Waleed Hussain too was penalised for a foul.
An injury to Leonardo forced a replacement in the form of the Argentine midfielder Federico Cartabia in the 54th minute.
Al Jazira’s pressure was to pay dividends and it was Omar who came to the rescue of his team in the 13th minute of the second half. Positioned just outside the penalty area, the former UAE star forward, taking advantage of a through pass from Obaid, let loose a left-footed shot which sent the ball into the bottom right corner of Majed Naser’s goal, to restore parity for the hosts in the 58th minute of the match.
A flurry of yellow cards ensued after a scuffle between players of the two teams, with Mohammed Jaber and Majed Nasser of Shabab and Faisal Al Matroushi of Al Jazira being penalised.
Arruabarrena effected one more change, this time replacing Saoud Abdulrazaq in midfield with another midfielder, Davide Mariani.
What followed were two goals in almost quick succession at both ends of the pitch.
First, an own goal by Yousef Jaber put Keizer’s men 2-1 up in the 75th minute and almost from the kick-off, the substitute Cartabia drew a foul from Al Jazira’s Milos Kosanovic in the box, leading to a penalty being awarded to the visitors. Cartabia converted the spot-kick with a left-footed shot directed at the top right corner of the goal.
Shabab Al Ahli made another replacement in the 84th minute, this time replacing defender Ahmed Abdulla Jamil with Abdulaziz Sanqoor.
With the 90 minutes of regulation time ending at 2-2, extra time came into effect.
Al Jazira’s dominance in the second half was reflected in them enjoying 54 per cent possession overall as against 46 per cent by Shabab Al Ahli. However, Shabab Al Ahli had 4 shots on target as against 3 by their rivals.
In the tie-breaker, while Shabab Al Ahli players were all on target, (Ahmed Khalil, Cartabia, Jaber and Mariani, only Mabkhout and Keno could manage to score for Al Jazira.
Shabab Al Ahli thus progress to the final beating Al Jazira 4-2 in the tie-breaker.