Newly-crowned Arabian Gulf Cup champions Al Nasr celebrate with the trophy after beating Shabab Al Ahli in the final on Friday.
Mohammad Abdullah, Staff Reporter
Skipper Alvaro Negredo and Toze scored a goal each as a clinical Al Nasr defeated defending champions Shabab Al Ahli 2-1 to lift the Arabian Gulf Cup on Friday.
With the victory, Al Nasr also broke the Shabab Al Ahli’s stranglehold on the tournament, who have already won four times. They are the most decorated club to have won the competition, lifting the trophy in 2011-12, 2013-14, 2016-17 and 2018-19.
Apart from Shabab Al Ahli, Al Nasr and Al Wahda have lifted the trophy twice.
Al Nasr won the prestigious title in 2014-15 for the first time.
While Al Wahda won in 2015-16 then 2017-18. Al Ain were the inaugural winners in 2008-09 as Al Jazira won the 2009-10 title and Al Shabab followed in 2010-11. Ajman lifted the 2012-13 trophy.
Earlier, Al Nasr played attacking football right from the word go as they scored the fastest goal in the history of the Arabian Gulf Cup. They were off the mark within the eight seconds of the kick-off.
As the referee blew the whistle, Toze kick the ball to begin the proceedings and the ball fell right in front of Negredo, who was waiting to pounce on it.
Negredo hit a shot from the centre of the box which Shabab Al Ahli’s goal-keeper failed to stop as the ball cruised into net from under his legs. Within the eight seconds of the kick-off, Al Nasr had taken a vital 1-0 lead to put pressure on Shabab Al Ahli.
Shabab Al Ahli were caught off guard. They started trying hard to restore the parity through some attacking shots. They did not have to wait for too long as Yousef Jaber broke the deadlock twelve minutes later.
Jaber hit a header off a pass from team-mate Fede Cartabia from the centre of the box to the bottom right corner of the goal post to cancel the lead and make it 1-1.
He brought a temporary respite to the Shabab Al Ahli’s camp. Both the teams tried hard to extend their lead but failed to penetrate the water-tight defence of each other.
In the 24th minute, Shabab Al Ahli missed a chance to go ahead when Saoud Abdulrazaq’s right-footed shot from outside the box could not get the elevation right and the ball went up high in the air.
A minute later, Al Nasr’s Brandley Kuwas also attempted a shot, which was blocked by the Shabab Al Ahli’s goalkeeper Majed Naser.
Both the teams kept on trying hard to add to their tallies but failed to convert half chances into goals despite coming very close to scoring.
In the 33rd minute once again, Al Nasr’s Toze hit a shot from outside the box off a pass from Hussain Mahdi, but the ball landed directly into the hands of goalkeeper.
Despite many efforts by both the teams, the first half score remained 1-1. But soon after the first-half, a resilient Al Nasr extended their lead to 2-1 through Toze. He hit a right-footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner of the net to put Al Nasr ahead in the 50th minute.
Shabab Al Ahli made quite a few substitutions. Pedro Conde replaced Leonardo because of an injury while Henrique Luvannor replaced Saoud Abdulrazaq and Ismael Al Hammadi was called on for Harib Abdalla Suhail. For Al Nasr, Munahed Khamis replaced Hamad Jassim Ghuloom.
In the 72nd minute, Al Nasr had a chance to make it 3-1 but Kuwas failed to convert a Toze’s assist into a goal. His attempt was brilliantly blocked by Shabab Al Ahli. Few seconds later, Hussain Abdullah of Al Nasr got a yellow card for his dangerous tackle.
In the 84th minute, Waleed Hussain almost put Shabab Al Ahli at par with a wonderful strike from outside the box off a assist from Cartabia before it was blocked by Al Nasr goalkeeper with a diving save.
Meanwhile, Mahmoud Khamis and Mubarak Saeed missed the game as they are on national duty with Olympic team. Al Nasr brought in young Hussein Saleh, who was physically fit and had already made an appearance against Al Wahda in the last match.
Earlier, a repeat of the group stage clash with Al Ain at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium ensued in the semis, and despite falling behind to a Mahmoud Khamis own goal, the Blues fought back and got the equalizer with eight minutes to go through Portuguese playmaker Toze.
In penalty shootouts, Ahmed Shambieh starred, saving from Jamal Maroof and Caio missed for Al Ain while all of Toze, Negredo and Kuwas scored before Tareq Ahmed got the decisive penalty on target to send Al Nasr into their second-ever Arabian Gulf Cup final and a date with city rivals Shabab Al Ahli.
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