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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Ismail Matar expects Al Wahda's Super Cup success to herald more titles in 2018

Club captain and UAE international forecasts winning Arabian Gulf League trophy among others

Al Wahda proved to be cup specialists at Baniyas Stadium on Saturday night, but they are now targeting the league title. Satish Kumar for the National
Al Wahda proved to be cup specialists at Baniyas Stadium on Saturday night, but they are now targeting the league title. Satish Kumar for the National

Ismail Matar has predicted a trophy-laden year for Al Wahda after the Arabian Gulf League club lifted the Super Cup on Saturday.

Al Wahda beat Abu Dhabi rivals Al Jazira 2-0 in the one-off game, which pits the reigning league champions against the President's Cup winners, at Baniyas Stadium.

It is a result captain Matar has said would set his side up for more trophies in 2018.

“Winning a trophy is always a happy moment and motivates the team to achieve bigger objectives,” the 34-year-old UAE forward said after Al Wahda took home the first piece of silverware up for grabs in the new year.

“We want to make 2018 a momentous year for the club as the country is celebrating the Year of Zayed," he added, referring to the 100th birth anniversary of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan, the UAE's Founding Father.

"This is the beginning. The Super Cup is only one game, but this team has the potential to challenge all the titles this season," Matar said. "We are in a good position in the league and we are confident to take this success forward.”

Al Wahda players celebrate during their 2-1 win over Al Jazira. Satish Kumar for the National
Al Wahda players celebrate during their 2-1 win over Al Jazira. Satish Kumar for the National

Indeed, Al Wahda (26 points) are in second place in the AGL table after 12 games, trailing Al Ain by two points and leading third-placed Al Wasl by one point in what looks to be a three-way fight for the title at the halfway mark.

But while Matar looked forward, fellow striker Sebastian Tagliabue chose to take stock of the team's recent past as he credited their success to the continuation of their hard work.

“We are winning our third final in three years,” the Argentine said, pointing to the one President’s Cup title and two Super Cup trophies won by the club.

“We have been building a squad by providing young local players with the opportunities, and they have started to deliver," added Tagliabue, who is in his fifth year at Al Wahda. "This present squad has a lot of potential to win titles.”

One such player is Mourad Batna, the 27-year-old Moroccan, who opened the scoring on 21 minutes when he sent the ball in to the back of the net after Tagliabue’s low shot from outside the area ricocheted off the post.

Balazs Dzsudzsak doubled the lead with a spot kick approaching the hour after Matar was brought down by Jazira goalkeeper Ali Khaseif.

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Wahda finished fifth in the league last season although won the President’s Cup, but despite that success the club replaced Javier Aguirre with Laurentiu Reghecampf in the summer.

Reghecampf’s contract was extended last month by another year until 2019 following the team’s run of good results.

“It’s a combination of many things," the Romanian said while putting the Super Cup win into perspective. "Firstly, the players, and then management, fans and technical staff.

“In this type of game, you need to score first to get a foothold, which we fortunately did. After that, we had more control of the game. It was an excellent team effort with everyone doing their job well.”

Following a season that saw them win the AGL title, Al Jazira manager Henk ten Cate said he was considering his future at the club after their cup defeat followed a poor run in the league. They are 11 points behind Al Ain and lie in fifth in the table at the moment.

To compound matters, UAE striker Ahmed Khalil departed to Al Ain just six months after he joined the club from the newly-constituted Shabab Al Ahli Dubai on a free transfer in the summer.

“I am really serious now,” Ten Cate said. “I’m going to have a good talk about my future. Everyone, believe me, everyone is doing their utmost to solve the problems we are facing. With little result, so far.

“This is a serious situation. I am not defending myself. I don’t try to justify the defeat, certainly not," he added.

“It’s not just this game. We have had a lot of games like this, it is not just this game."