Al Jazira edge Al Ain on penalties to win President’s Cup
Al Ain 1-1 Al Jazira (Jazira win 6-5 on penalties)
Al Ain: Douglas 64’
Jazira: Mabkhout 44’
Man of the match: Ali Kasheif (Al Jazira)
ABU DHABI // Mohanad Salem struck the woodwork, the fourth and final time for Al Ain, the one that wrecked their President’s Cup dreams but realised Al Jazira’s.
Thirteen penalties had gone before in the shootout, where it would prove unlucky for Salem and Al Ain, with Jazira triumphing 6-5 at a fuming and frantic Zayed Sports City on Sunday night.
Ali Mabkhout and Danilo Asprilla had both missed moments before, yet Salem’s stung the most, and proved the most crucial in UAE football’s season-concluding clash.
It was harsh on the Al Ain defender, who stunted his run but soon sunk to his knees, as Jazira then felt 10 feet tall, lost in the ecstasy of a third President’s Cup.
One apiece in normal time, the two teams were ultimately separated by a swish of Salem’s left boot. Al Ain, in what could be manager Zlatko Dalic’s last match, were dominant but eventually distressed. Jazira, though, once worried about Arabian Gulf League relegation, exit the 2015/16 campaign cradling the country’s most coveted cup.
“I don’t enjoy doing press conferences after matches like this. I prefer to go out there, take a small drink and celebrate with my players,” said Henk ten Cate, the Jazira coach, although he needed no persuasion to pile praise on his players.
• Video Highlights: Al Ain advance past Baniyas to meet Al Jazira in President’s Cup final
“Once again, I can say only that this team has so much willpower, is capable of bouncing back against every setback. It’s the mentality of the team, a team with real team spirit, who’ve proved it over and over again. I’m very happy for the supporters, it’s been quite a while since they won something. Now everybody can be proud again of Al Jazira Football Club.”
How apt, then, that Jazira are nicknamed “The Pride of Abu Dhabi”. The capital club looked set for honouring that moniker by initially taking the lead in all-consuming conditions, when Mabkhout earned and coolly slotted home a penalty one minute before half time. The award seemed dubious, as the Jazira striker tumbled under pressure from Mohammed Fayez, but he picked himself up to plunder his 30th goal of a standout season.
However, Al Ain were level just after the hour, once Douglas had pounced on a rebound from an Asprilla shot to send the ball into the roof of the net, sending the Al Ain supporters wild.
Al Ain went close on at least four occasions thereafter, Ibrahim Diaky glancing the post — the third time his side had hit the woodwork — while Asprilla was repeatedly thwarted by Ali Kasheif in the Jazira goal. Kasheif stood strong in the shootout, too, expertly repelling Asprilla again before Salem succumbed in sudden death.
“If somebody deserved to win this cup, it was Ali Kasheif,” said Ten Cate, who confirmed he has held talks with the club about extending his stay beyond this match. “Of course, I want to congratulate everybody with this success: the staff, players, medical staff. But today Ali Kasheif was pretty special.”
It may prove an especially disappointing denouncement to Dalic’s two-and-a-half years with Al Ain. The Croat is expected to move on, to say goodbye to a club in which he has already delivered league and cup success before.
“I can just be proud of my players — they did a good job, but we missed many chances and in penalties, sometimes you lose, sometimes you win,” Dalic said. “But always you have to be gentleman.
“Really I can’t say anything against my team. This is football; tomorrow’s a new day, a new challenge. My players dominated, did everything, but missed a second goal. This is football; sometimes it happens like this.”
Asked what is next, with his contract now expired and with other offers on the table, Dalic replied: “First, I will rest. Really, I’m very, very tired: 11 months, hard work. I’ll take rest with my family and see about my future. I never said I will go out from Al Ain, but I have choices to see what’s best for me.
“I really appreciate Al Ain for two-and-a-half years, they gave me the chance to be coach of a big club; I built my name in Al Ain. So I appreciate everyone who gave me the chance, from my President, from my management. My target is to stay in Asia, which club I will see. I’ll see what’s happening with Al Ain. This is my club; if I go out I’m really proud of my time here. I will stay ‘Ainawi’ forever.”
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