x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

'Kings' still in the hunt for President's crown

Sharjah continues their quest for a title as 'the Kings' defeat Kalba 3-1 to reach the President's Cup final eight.

Sharjah coach Ayman Ramadi says the victory over Kalba in the President's Cup will help his 'Kings' fear no Pro League team.
Sharjah coach Ayman Ramadi says the victory over Kalba in the President's Cup will help his 'Kings' fear no Pro League team.

 

RAS AL KHAIMAH // The President's Cup undoubtedly holds a "special" place in the hearts of every Sharjah player and Ayman Ramadi, their coach, was delighted they proved that with a commanding 3-1 win over Kalba on Friday night.

The victory gave Sharjah a place in the last eight of a competition they have won eight times, more than any other club in the UAE.

"The President's Cup is something special for Sharjah club," Ramadi said.

"It is something really big for us and we hope by the time the next match comes, we will reach a level where we can beat or compete against any top side in the country."

The Sharjah players will have to wait until February for that next cup game when they will face Al Shabab.

By then, their coach is hoping to have built a team that is not "scared" of any Pro League side.

"I want to make sure any player who puts on this Sharjah T-shirt, he should not be worried about playing against any team," he said.

"But for the time being, we have to focus on the league [Division One] and our next game."

After a scoreless first half, Yaser Abdulla, Eder Luciano and Hassan Mohammed gave Sharjah a 3-0 lead at the Emirates club stadium, while Joher Musabeh struck a consolation goal for Kalba in the 89th minute.

On the evidence of their performance in Ras Al Khaimah last night, Sharjah seem on an upwards climb after enduring one of their worst seasons in top-flight football last term.

They did not score in the first half, but dominated throughout.

The Kalba goalkeeper Mohammed Osman did well to deny Sharjah in the 24th minute, sliding in to block an attempted chip by Ahmed Khamis. Six minutes later, Sharjah were unlucky once again when Luciano's header bounced off the bar.

The woodwork saved Kalba once again in the 45th minute when Moussa Narry's thundering volley hit the horizontal and the first session came to a close without a goal. Sharjah had the clear upper hand, for historically this is their favourite tournament. They are known as "The Kings" in domestic football for winning the country's second most important competition eight times.

The club, however, have been struggling over the last decade.

Their fifth and last league title came in 1995/96 and their last trophy was the 2002/03 President's Cup. Their declining fortunes hit the depths last season when, amid a flurry of changes at managerial level, the club were relegated to the second division for only the second time in their history.

Sharjah managed only 11 points in the Pro League last term and finished at the bottom of the points table. They had a chance to stay in the top flight in September's promotion play-offs, but failed and, though it still early days, they are third in Division One after seven rounds, behind Emirates and Al Dhaid.

They had won their last match though, played on this same ground, when they defeated hosts and Division One leaders Emirates by a goal in a league game.

A repeat seemed possible when an unmarked Abdulla fired home from a Salem Khamis corner to give Sharjah the lead in the 53rd minute.

Three minutes later, it became probable when Luciano, put through by Ahmed Khamis, kept two Kalba defenders at bay as he shot past Osman.

Hassan then put the result beyond doubt with Sharjah's third goal in the 72nd minute after being put through by Luciano.

Musabeh reduced the margin with a minute left on the clock, but there were no celebration as he knew the match had already been decided.

This was Kalba's first loss under their new coach Ze Mario, and the Brazilian said: "I think Sharjah played better than us and they controlled for most part of the game. Our players showed a lot of fight and wanted to win, but after the first goal the team went down."

 

arizvi@thenatonal.ae

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