x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Emerson stars as Al Ain triumph in opener

The South American forward scores twice as Al Ain beat Pro League champions Al Ahli to win the Super Cup.

Al Ahli's Ali Hussain, No 29, and  Al Ain's Chilean playmaker, Jorge Valdivia, No 10, battle for possession during yesterday's Super Cup match at Dubai Sports City.
Al Ahli's Ali Hussain, No 29, and Al Ain's Chilean playmaker, Jorge Valdivia, No 10, battle for possession during yesterday's Super Cup match at Dubai Sports City.

DUBAI // Al Ain's passionate supporters have grown used to idolising South American forwards, and now they have a new darling after Emerson, the Brazilian import, fired them to Super Cup success. The midfield player, who was a summer import from Brazil's best supported club, Flamengo, struck twice in normal time. He then fired home the decisive penalty as the UAE's top two sides were finally split after two hours of battle. Al Ain, who did the domestic cup double last season, had strengthened their ranks with some heavy spending in the summer, while Ahli's poor pre-season form meant they started distant second favourites. Led by the South American trio of Jose Sand, the Argentine, Emerson and the brilliant Chilean playmaker Jorge Valdivia, Al Ain held all the aces in terms of finesse. However, the Dubai outfit at least held their own, and should have gone ahead before Emerson scored the opener after 34 minutes. Gadir Bare, Ahli's robust target man, saw one firm drive pawed away by the Al Ain goalkeeper Walid Salim then combined with Faisal Khalil to miss an open goal in the most comical fashion imaginable. Salim did well to turn away a free-kick from the edge of the box, but as the ball fell loose in the six yard box, Ahli's strike duo had the net at their mercy. Both wanted it to be their goal, yet they finished in a tangle of legs and the ball ballooned over the bar. Crucially, Khalil did not get up from the heap. He was stretchered off, and by the time Ahli managed to replace him - a full six minutes later - they were a goal behind.

Emerson had already been clean through on goal once. He missed the chance then, but made no mistake two minutes later when he skipped past Obaid al Tawila in the Ahli goal and slotted into an empty net. Ahli, and Bare in particular, fought doggedly in response. The burly Brazilian had the ball in the net, but the offside flag was already up, and shortly after he saw a penalty shout for handball turned down. With 20 minutes left they were back on level terms. Unsurprisingly, it was Bare who fashioned the opportunity, earning a penalty when he was felled by Mohammed Abdul Rahman. Hosni Abdo Rabo's penalty had to be retaken after he stuttered in his run up. He did the same thing on the retake, but this time the referee let it slide and the goal stood. After 85 minutes Emerson scored what seemed certain to be the winner for Al Ain, only for the Dubai outfit to level in the second-minute of injury-time. Mohammed Suroor took the glory, but an inglorious error by the goalkeeper, Salim, was the root cause, as he let the goal-shy striker's meek 35 yard shot wobble past him. Mohammed Qasim fell victim to the card happy referee, Farid Ali, when he was sent off for a second yellow after an innocuous challenge on Valdivia in extra time. The 10-men of Ahli could not be denied during the extra-half hour, but they were finally downed when Rabo missed their opening penalty, and Al Ain scored all of their allocation. pradley@thenational.ae