x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Ciel gives gutsy Al Shabab just reward of Etisalat Cup

The Brazilian duo of Ciel and Julio Cesar helped the Dubai side score three goals in the final 20-plus minutes against Al Ain to win 3-2.

ABU DHABI // The shock of an own goal to open scoring in a cup final might have been enough to deal a fatal psychological blow to most sides.

Relinquishing a 2-1 lead in the first minute of added on time surely must have crushed them.

For Al Shabab, the tests seemed only to galvanise their will to win.

The Brazilian duo of Ciel and Julio Cesar helped the Dubai side score three goals in the final 20-plus minutes as Shabab overcame Al Ain and claimed the Etisalat Cup 3-2 before 8,027 fans at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium last night.

An interesting game became a gripping one in the dying minutes as three goals were rifled home and fans celebrated or groaned as fortunes rapidly shifted.

The first of the three, by Shabab's Cesar, gave the men in green a 2-1 lead in the 86th minute.

The next was an unexpected strike by the Al Ain substitute Juma Saeed in the first minute of extra time, creating a momentary illusion that the game would go for an additional 30 minutes.

Ferreira, however, had different ideas. The flamboyant midfielder produced a clinical finish from eight yards, beating two exhausted Ain defenders and the veteran goalkeeper Waleed Salem to net the winning goal just seconds ahead of the final whistle.

Thanks to the own goal, conceded by the defender Esam Dhahi, Ain for more than an hour had seemed on the cusp of salvaging a trophy out of a season that has seen the side out of Pro League contention since December and ousted from the President's Cup for using an ineligible player.

It would have been their 19th in the country's four domestic competitions.

Alexandre Gallo's line-up was a surprise and a curiosity: a formation without forwards. And just when observers might have been asking "how will they score?"

The answer came 19 minutes in as Shabab's Dhahi put a cross into his own goal to give them the advantage.

The veteran midfielder Ali al Wehaibi outmanoeuvred Abdullah Darwish for a long ball out of the back, knocked if to his left to Omar Abdulrahman, got a pass back from the little playmaker as he dashed into the box and carried it toward the touchline.

Al Wehaibi, however, had no help. Not at least, wearing Al Ain white.

His cross seemed pointless until Dhahi inexplicably decided to make a play on it while inside the goalie box, and the ball struck the inside of his raised right foot, as he faced the net, and sailed briskly into the net.

Dhahi's partner in central defence, Walid Abbas knows the sinking feeling of an own goal; Abbas put through his own net in consecutive Asian Cup matches in January for the UAE.

Shabab had the better of it for the rest of the first period, with Ciel and Carlos Villanueva probing and Julio Cesar and Essa Obaid having half-chances from distance.

But they were unable to regularly penetrate the Ain defensive thicket.

Ciel and Julio Cesar got Dhahi off the hook in the 70th minute. After an hour of steady pressure, Julio Cesar threaded a pass forward to Ciel on a diagonal run, and the midfielder with the Mohican haircut settled it and fired it into the top of the Al Ain net.