x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Emirates tear up the script

Over the past year, Emirates, the little side from Ras al Khaimah, have shown a remarkable capacity for rising up to smite their putative betters in big competitions.

Nabil Daoudi, left, of Emirates scored against Zob Ahan when the sides met in March.
Nabil Daoudi, left, of Emirates scored against Zob Ahan when the sides met in March.

Over the past year, Emirates, the little side from Ras al Khaimah, have shown a remarkable capacity for rising up to smite their putative betters in big competitions.

Last April, they shocked UAE football by defeating the Dubai side Al Shabab 3-1 in the President's Cup final even as they were being relegated from the Pro League. Then, in August, they provided a stunning opening to the current season by beating Al Wahda, the league champions, by the same score in the Super Cup.

The windmills Emirates are tilting at now are some of the biggest clubs in western Asia, and again they are holding their own. They have led in all four Asian Champions League matches they have played, winning two, and they could clinch a berth in the knockout phase if they can win at home tonight against Zob Ahan of Iran.

They are on six points in Group D with two matches left, behind leaders Zob Ahan (10) and ahead of the Saudi Arabian side Al Shabab (five).

Emirates are unlikely to be intimidated by Zob Ahan despite the Esfahan side's status as ACL runners-up in 2010 and current third-best club in the well-regarded Iran Pro League.

When Nabil Daoudi scored for Emirates against Zob Ahan in March, the strike seemed to announce that Emirates were not going to melt away despite being the only second-division side in the tournament, and the Iranian club's appearance at the Emirates pitch tonight could bring out a capacity crowd of 6,000.

Ghazi Ghrairi's Emirates side have been led in the attack by the international forwards Daoudi, from Morocco, and the Algerian Hadj Bougueche, who between them have five goals. The Algerian playmaker Karim Kerkar also has been important.

Aside from a 4-1 defeat away to Al Shabab, which Emirates avenged 2-1 last month, the RAK club have been stingy in defence, conceding only three goals in three matches.

Their depth and resolve will be tested tonight, however, as they line up without the suspended defenders Mustafa al Saedi and Hadef al Zaabi.

 

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

5.35pm, Abu Dabi Sports