Abu Dhabi // Ghantoot reserved their best for last to beat the ADCB Polo Team and win the President of the UAE Cup yesterday.
Gonazalo Azumendi scored a hat-trick and Nasser al Dhari accounted for the other tally as they held off a spirited late rally from ADCB to emerge 4-3 winners at the Ghantoot Racing and Polo Club in last night's final.
Matias Colombres scored two late goals after Hugo Barabucci had pulled one back in the second chukka but that was as close as ADCB could get.
"It was really a tough match," said Azuemendi, the Argentine professional playing in his 10th season at Ghantoot.
"We started well and scored three goals but ADCB came back strongly in the last two chukkas to take the game to the wire."
Ghantoot reached the final after losing the first two games in the five-team competition. They went down to Tom Ford in the opener and were beaten 7-6 by ADCB in the next before winning the next two games to finish second-best at the end of the league stage.
"It took some time for us to unite as a team," Azumendi said. "We played better in the last two games and tonight we were at our best. We closed the game by marking man-to-man and scored those early goals to take a good grip on the match.
"Everyone played to their true potential and this was the game that mattered."
Nasser al Shamsi, Azumendi's Emirati teammate, added: "When we got on to the pitch, only one thing crossed our minds, to avenge our defeat.
"When we met for the first time in the group stage and lost 7-6. We knew we could have beaten them on that occasion. So we had this on the backs of our minds: we can win this final. And we did it."
Barabucci, who played such a vital role in the group stage, said ADCB could not summon their best when it mattered.
"We played well throughout the group stage but failed to deliver the same performance tonight," said the Argentine professional.
"We missed too many scoring opportunities in the first half of the match while they scored from theirs to take a sound lead which they defended well towards the end. We got our act together in the last two chukkas. Still, it wasn't enough. However, both teams provided a great final to entertain the crowd."
Azumendi opened the scoring from a penalty, a tap-in from in front of the posts, for Ghantoot to take a 1-0 lead at the end of the opening chukka.
They could have doubled the lead had al Dhari been on target after a superb run from the middle of the field. He tapped the ball twice but failed to strike it a third time wide of the near post.
ADCB too had their chances in the seven-minute period. Barabucci made a daring run but his effort was wide. He was also wide with a 30-yard penalty.
Al Dhari scored early in the second chukka and Azumendi converted a 30-yard penalty to extend the lead to 3-0 before Barabucci pulled one back from a 40-yard penalty.
Azumendi then regained the three-goal cushion with another 30-yard penalty in the third chukka, and Colombres reduced the lead with a fine solo run from the middle of the field to reduce the lead to 4-2 in the penultimate chukka.
Colombres closed the gap to one-goal in the opening minute of the final chukka with a superb 60-yard penalty to have the crowd on the edge of their seats.
But Ghantoot held on to retain the coveted title.