Shabab Al Ahli and Bani Yas players in action during their President’s Cup semi-final match.
Gulf Today Report
A resurgent Shabab Al Ahli defeated Bani Yas 1-0 in the semi-final of the President’s Cup to book their berth in the final at the Sharjah Stadium on Monday.
Shabab Al Ahli’s Brazilian striker Igor da Cruz broke the deadlock in the 73rd minute to put them 1-0 ahead, which proved enough for their rivals, who were reduced to 10 men.
After taking the lead, Shabab Al Ahli went into the defensive mode and did not let Bani Yas restore the parity, who looked desperate to cancel the lead.
Shabab Al Ahli have shown a great resurgence and with the change of the coach the club saw a revival of fortune after a sloppy start to the season.
Former UAE coach Mahdi Ali has brought a lot of reforms into the team and seems to have injected a new zeal in their dwindling campaign. Since Mahdi took over the reins of the Dubai giants, their faltering campaign is apparently coming back on the track as they came into the match as favorites.
Since the change of guard at the helm, Shabab Al Ahli have won their four of the last five outings, procuring 13 out of possible 15 points for grabs. They drew one and won four games.
They defeated Hatta, were held by Al Wahda before beating Al Wasl, Al Ain and Ittihad Kalba in the three successive matches to climb to the sixth spot in the 14-team league.
In their head-to-head record, prior to the semi-final, Shabab Al Ahli held an advantage over their opponents. They had defeated Bani Yas thrice and were beaten only once while one game ended in a draw across all the competitions.
With the victory, Shabab Al Ahli have kept their hopes of the first silverware of the season alive under their new coach Ali, who replaced Gerard Zaragoza in December last year.
The 55-year-old Ali is coaching Shabab Al Ahli for the third time, having previously taken charge of the team in the 2009 when they were known as Al Ahli before returning to the club for a second tenure in the 2017-2018 season.
Ali has had great success with various UAE national teams, having led them to the 2008 AFC U-19 Championship title and coaching the Olympic team in the 2012 London Olympics before steering the senior side to a third place finish in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup.
Earlier, Bani Yas and Shabab Al Ahli were trying hard to break the dead lock. But none of them succeeded until the 34th minute. In the 34th minute, Bani Yas finally managed to break the stalemate and take a 1-0 lead through S Al Noobi.
But their joy was short-lived as the Virtual Assistant Referee (VAR) disqualified the goal. Replay showed clearly that it was an off-side goal, which brought both the teams on level again.
Bani Yas were playing a more attacking game as they got two red cards. Coach Daniel Isaila was shown a red card and had to leave the pitch while Joao Victor was handed two yellow for committing foul which resulted in his omission from the match and Bani Yas were left with 10 men and without their coach on the side lines.
A resilient Bani Yas have also exuded a stellar form this season by virtue of which they have climbed to the third spot in the standings in the Arabian Gulf League (AGL). They have 33 points in their kitty after having played 17 games.
Bani Yas have procured 10 wins, three draws and four losses so far and are keeping hot on the heels of second-placed Al Jazira, are tied at points with the leaders Sharjah with 37 points each.
However on a better goal difference Sharjah, who are the defending champions, are leading the pack in the league. Sharjah won the title in the 2018-19 season.
But as the 2019-2020 season was suspended with seven rounds to spare due to coronavirus, which brought the entire world to its knees and sports was one of the worst-hit sectors. All the sporting events across the globe was postponed or cancelled to contain the spread of the pandemic.
So to restore the sense of equality and justice among the clubs there was no relegation, promotion or coronation of a new champions, which saw the erstwhile champions Sharjah retaining the title.
However, of late Bani Yas faltered in their past few matches and could manage to muster only eight points in the last five fixtures. They drew with Al Jazira, defeated Khorfakkan and Fujairah after being beaten by Ittihad Kalba and Al Wasl prior to that.
On their path to the semi-finals, Bani Yas defeated Al Urooba 2-0 in the round of last 16 and Al Wasl 1-0 in the quarters. While Shabab Al Ahli blanked Hatta 3-0 and Emirates 2-0 in the round of 16 and quarter-finals respectively.
Shabab Al Ahli’s 3-2 win against Al Nasr saw them pip Sharjah to third spot in the table and claim the 2022 AFC Champions League qualifying spot. Sharjah finished fourth after a 1-0 defeat to Kalba.
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