x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Al Dhafra coach delighted with emphatic rout of Emirates

Mahmoud Awadh hit a brace as Al Dhafra ran out 5-1 winners over Emirates in Dubai to guarantee a place in the Pro League.

Al Dhafra, in black, will be joining the expanded Pro League this season. Mike Young / The National
Al Dhafra, in black, will be joining the expanded Pro League this season. Mike Young / The National

Emirates 1 Al Dhafra 5

DUBAI // In the end, and on a fraught evening at the Maktoum bin Rashid Stadium, Al Dhafra kept their cool to cruise into the big time.

The Western Region club's aggressive recruitment drive this summer had raised expectation and increased pressure, but Dzemal Hadziabdic's side simply blew away Emirates, their supposed lofty rivals, in 19 blistering minutes.

A brace from Mahmoud Awadh, the only remaining outfield player from last year's Division One campaign in the starting line-up, and goals from Bandar Al Ahbabi and Makhete Diop - all in the first half - were augmented by a second-half Amara Diane header to ensure Dhafra a place in the Pro League, while Emirates must contemplate life in UAE football's second tier.

Hadziabdic was, understandably, pleased with the performance of his players, saying: "To be honest before the game I was not relaxed, I was worried. Something told me we had a very tough game, but we prepared very well and did our homework on Emirates.

"We saw their weaknesses, which were a lot, analysed them and exploited them. I'm very happy we beat such a good team and that we scored five goals."

As the Ras Al Khaimah club trudged off the pitch at half time, sections of their support hurled abuse at Lufti Benzarti, the coach, while it was all too much for Yousuf Al Batran, the first-team supervisor, to take as he became involved in an angry exchange with fans.

Their actions may not have been the most desirable, but the frustrations were wholly understandable: 4-0 down after just 40 minutes, their Pro League dream was as unattainable as a respite from Dhafra's attacking prowess.

It took 21 minutes for the Emirates defence, missing the suspended Haider Ali, to be breached.

Following fine work from Diane, Al Ahbabi released Diop, the new signing from Senegal, whose scuffed shot squirted past the advancing Moataz Abdullah in the Emirates goal and provided Awadh a routine tap-in.

The simplest of goals carried the greatest significance as Dhafra, buoyed by their lead, cantered to victory.

Diane's precise through ball 13 minutes later then sent Awadh bearing down on goal, the winger taking one touch before sending Abdullah the wrong way to double the advantage.

Dhafra, who defeated Sharjah last Tuesday in the opening game of these play-offs, all but sealed promotion moments later when Al Ahbabi added his name to the swelling score sheet.

The first half concluded with Diop applying the final contribution to the sweetest of moves; a succession of one-touch passes allowing the powerful striker to angle his shot into the roof of the net.

Dhafra's travelling support exploded into Arabic verse and it was left to Diane, scorer of the only goal against Sharjah, to deliver the final blow 10 minutes into the second half, the Ivorian forward meeting Saif Mohammed's free kick to direct a header past the unfortunate Abdullah.

Modibo Diarra's consolation late on could not quell the Dhafra party, which is sure to bring a certain celebration to the top flight.


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