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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

Marcus Berg's hat-trick leads Al Ain to 13th Arabian Gulf League title

  • Defeat Al Nasr 4-0 to seal top spot in the standings with one game to spare
  • Al Wahda's loss to Ajman meant they would have still been crowned champions even if they had lost
  • The Garden City club qualify for the Fifa Club World Cup in the UAE in December
Marcus Berg, left, scored a hat-trick for Al Ain as their 4-0 win over Al Nasr secured the Arabian Gulf League title. Pawan Singh / The National
Marcus Berg, left, scored a hat-trick for Al Ain as their 4-0 win over Al Nasr secured the Arabian Gulf League title. Pawan Singh / The National

Marcus Berg was the hero with a hat-trick as Al Ain won the Arabian Gulf League title on Saturday in style.

The UAE’s most decorated club proved too strong for Al Nasr as they swept to a 4-0 win at the Al Aweer Stadium, becoming the country's champions for a 13th time.

Al Ain had gone into the match at Nasr knowing a victory would guarantee them the title, but as it turns out they would have been sure of top spot even if they had lost.

Nearest rivals Al Wahda, the only side who could have still beaten them to top spot going into the weekend, were beaten 3-2 at Zayed Sports City by Ajman to ensure that the Garden City club could start their celebrations with one game of the season still to play.

The result also confirmed entry that Al Ain will gain entry, as the host country's representative, to the Fifa Club World Cup, which for the second successive year is being held in the UAE in December.

Al Ain were impressive against a Nasr side who had unbeaten in seven matches prior to the game. To their credit, Nasr began brightly, but were left to rue Marcelo Cirino's wasted early opportunity.

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Al Ain had their breakthrough in the 35th minute. Egyptian Hussein El Shahat intercepted a pass and played in Omar Abdulrahman, whose scuffed shot slipped through the fingers of goalkeeper Ahmed Shambieh to leave a grateful Berg to tap home.

It was Al Ain’s first attack of note. It was Berg’s 19th goal in 21 league matches.

Nine minutes later, the Swedish forward had his 20th. This time, the Swedish striker met Caio’s first-time cross with a thumping header that Shambieh could only parry onto the underside of the crossbar.

The ball landed inches beyond the Nasr line, the referee’s attention caught by his assistant waving frantically. Replays confirmed the goal.

And with that, Al Ain cruised to victory. Berg completed his hat-trick, a stopping header from substitute Rayan Yaslam’s deep cross.

There was even time for Ahmed Khalil to rise from the bench to get the fourth, a fine finish to a quick counter-attack in injury time.

Meanwhile, Abdulrahman rattled the Nasr crossbar from range and Shiotani had a goal chalked off following consultation with the video referee.

Yet Al Ain’s fans did not mind at all. Tucked away in the corner of the Al Alweer Stadium, they cheered and chanted towards their players, cherishing their club’s latest crowning moment now they are back on top in UAE football.

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