Emotional night in Dubai as Al Nasr beat Saham to win GCC Clubs Championship
Al Nasr 2 Saham 1
Nasr: Ibrahima Toure 26, Leonardo Lima 64-pen
Saham: Brahima Diakite 80
Man of the match: Mahmoud Khamis (Al Nasr)
DUBAI // Hugely popular in the 1980s and ’90s, the GCC Gulf Clubs Championship has lost a lot of its sheen in recent times. With the Asian Champions League becoming the destination of the region’s top clubs, you could call the GCC tournament the poorer cousin of the continental championship. But try telling that to Al Nasr fans.
They have been waiting for 25 years to see their team bring home a trophy, with their last success being the 1989 President’s Cup. Three years before that, Nasr had won the last of their three league titles.
Thankfully for the fans, the long wait finally came to an end last night when they beat Omani club Saham 2-1, becoming the fifth UAE club to win the Gulf title in the past seven years.
One Nasr fan could not even wait for the final whistle. He ran on to the pitch in the final minute to take a selfie with Leonardo Lima. The players and team officials were also delighted and a few of them, including Habib Fardan, shed tears of joy.
The usually reserved Ivan Jovanovic, who won nine trophies in five years at his previous job with Cypriot club Apoel, could not hide his emotions either, celebrating with the players after their hard-fought win.
The Serbian was the toast of the fans for finally delivering a trophy, as his predecessor Walter Zenga watched from the stands.
Urged on by one of the biggest crowds seen at Al Maktoum Stadium in recent years, Nasr made an attacking start with Mahmoud Darwish floating in a cross for Ibrahima Toure in the opening minute and then Fardan getting into a good position two minutes later before being muscled off the ball.
The Omanis refused to be intimidated and created a great opportunity in the 24th minute when Mohsin Jauhar dragged the ball back for Brahima Diakite but, fortunately for the home fans, goalkeeper Yousuf Abdullah had the shot covered.
Two minutes later, Nasr took the lead, with Toure taking advantage of a miscommunication between the Saham goalkeeper Sulaiman Al Bariki and defender Vinicius da Silva.
As Mahmoud Khamis chipped into the box from the right, both Al Bariki and da Silva moved in for the ball, but then stopped in their tracks, expecting the other to make the clearance.
The ball deflected off the defender and Toure tapped it into the empty goal. The Senegalese should have doubled Nasr’s tally two minutes before the break, with only the Saham goalkeeper to beat, but the striker delayed his shot and was dispossessed by the defenders.
Al Hussain Saleh had a great opportunity in the 53rd minute when Toure put him in the clear, but like the Senegalese, he took too long over his shot and the Saham defenders recovered to overpower him.
Nasr eventually got their second in the 64th minute from the penalty spot following Da Silva’s mistimed two-footed slide into a charging Khamis. Leonardo Lima converted to signal the start of the party in the stands.
Diakite brought Saham back into the game 10 minutes before the end by getting a touch on Mohsin Jauhar’s free kick but, despite a determined final minutes flurry, they failed to get the equaliser.
The Nasr defenders kept their nerves to see out the last few minutes and secure a first piece of silverware for their club in a quarter of a century.
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