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Al Wahda players celebrate substitute Saeed Al Kathiri's winner against Abu Dhabi rivals Al Jazira to advance to the semi-finals. Al Ittihad
Al Wahda players celebrate substitute Saeed Al Kathiri's winner against Abu Dhabi rivals Al Jazira to advance to the semi-finals. Al Ittihad

President's Cup: Al Wahda win local bragging rights against rivals Al Jazira

Saeed Al Kathiri, an 89th-minute substitute, scored the winning goal in a 2-1 victory to send Al Wahda through to the President's Cup semi-final at Al Jazira's expense, writes Paul Oberjuerge.

The public perception may be that Al Jazira have dominated the capital derby in recent years. Abu Dhabi Island's younger club won the 2011 league plate and the President's Cup that year, 4-0 over Al Wahda, and defended it in 2012.

Wahda, however, have had memorable moments of their own in the derby. The 2010 league championship, with Jazira beaten into second despite only one defeat in 22 league games; the 2011 Super Cup in a 6-5 shoot-out over their rivals; and, last night, a taut 2-1 victory at the Baniyas Stadium that lifted them into the President's Cup semi-finals - at Jazira's expense.

After 90-plus minutes of a finely balanced if not always artistic struggle, Saeed Al Kathiri, an 89th-minute substitute, controlled a short pass from Ismail Matar, pivoted near the penalty spot as Jazira's exhausted defence struggled to catch up, and powered a heavy shot past goalkeeper Ali Kasheif.

For most of the second half, it seemed as if Marcelo Oliveira's first-half goal would be enough for Wahda. The former Sharjah man, who only a few days before had been deemed surplus to requirements, was called back into the squad when the Gabon forward Eric Mouloungi suffered a relapse of his leg injury. His goal was a fine header on a cross from Essa Ahmed.

Jazira struggled for an hour to break down a Wahda defence led by the Bosnian-Australian newcomer Dino Djulbic, a 6ft, 4ins tower in the middle of the back line. Djulbic clogged the middle and made Ricardo Oliveira, the prolific striker, all but disappear.

Wahda seemed to invite probes on their right by Fernandinho, but the little Brazilian was routinely stymied by the right-back Ahmed, and once was booked for diving. Just when it looked as if Jazira were out of ideas, Matias Delgado took matters in to his own hands, finding space from 25 yards out and firing a shot that deflected off the right hand of Adel Al Hosani, the Wahda keeper, knotting the score.

"A lot of effort from our players; we came back after Wahda scored their goal," said Paulo Bonamigo, the Jazira manager. "But a match like that is decided by small things, and it went in their favour."

Jazira now have one fewer competition to concern themselves with. They are strong candidates for the Etisalat Cup semi-finals, are second in the league table and open Asian Champions League competition in two weeks.

Wahda have no chance to win the league, and are out of the Champions League for the second year running, but they are now only two victories from their first President's Cup championship since 2000. If they are to win it, eliminating Jazira en route will make it seem even sweeter.

 

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

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