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In the regular season the rest of the Pro League has had trouble keeping up with Jires Kembo Ekoko, right, and his Al Ain teammates. But the President's Cup knockout stage means all things are equal.
In the regular season the rest of the Pro League has had trouble keeping up with Jires Kembo Ekoko, right, and his Al Ain teammates. But the President's Cup knockout stage means all things are equal.

President's Cup a pleasant diversion that arrives just in time

With the Pro League title all but decided, Paul Oberjuerge observes that the President's Cup competition could not have come at a better time.

 

Thank goodness for the President's Cup.

For three seasons running the Pro League race has seemed decided before year's end, so a second major competition gearing up comes at an opportune moment.

Two years ago Al Jazira were running away with the Pro League. Last season, and this, it is Al Ain off to the races.

Jazira and Al Ahli retain the fond hope that they remain candidates for the league title, but some sort of crash by Al Ain, clearly the league's best side, would be required for them to make up deficits of seven and eight points, respectively.

The President's Cup, then, seems like a new start. Eight sides remain in contention for the country's No 2 trophy, including those old President's Cup campaigners Sharjah, the eight-time winners of the event, relegated from the league but through to the quarter-finals after dismissing Kalba on Friday.

They are joined by Al Wahda, Baniyas, Al Shabab, Dibba, Jazira, Ahli and, yes, those guys again, Al Ain.

It is not as if Cosmin Olariou's side suddenly look vulnerable, but the possibility of an opponent pushing them into penalties and winning the shoot-out lottery seems far more likely than catching them in the league table.

A year ago, Baniyas ousted Al Ain 3-1 in a controversial semi-final that went to extra time.

In the league it would have been a hiccup soon forgotten. In the cup, it sidelined Al Ain and set up an interesting final, Baniyas versus Al Jazira.

A little fun, something a little different. That's what the President's Cup gives us.

And just in time.

 

sports@thenational.ae

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