The President's Cup final will be a Dubai derby between Al Ahli and Al Shabab after the latter booked their place in the championship game with a clinical 2-0 demolition of Al Wahda, writes Amith Passela.
President's Cup: Containment only works for so long as Al Shabab overcome Al Wahda
AL AIN // The President's Cup final will be a Dubai derby between Al Ahli and Al Shabab after the latter booked their place in the championship game with a clinical 2-0 demolition of Al Wahda.
Azizbek Haydarov and Edgar Bruno scored within five second-half minutes last night at the Tahnoun bin Mohammed Stadium to end Wahda's hopes of winning any silverware this season.
The Wahda coach Josef Hickersberger, who was brought in to replace the dismissed Branko Ivankovic last week, left out Marcelo Oliveira, the Brazilian forward, from his starting line-up in favour of the UAE international Saeed Al Kathiri.
And Hamdan Al Kamali, the centre-back, was returning from injury for his first game in nearly two months.
The Austrian coach's ploy to contain Shabab's strongmen - Haydarov, Bruno, Luiz Henrique and Ciel - worked well until a 30-yard shot from the Uzbekistan midfielder Haydarov broke the deadlock in the 75th minute.
Papa Waigo had a chance to equalise, but his effort crashed against the crossbar.
The Wahda players were still ruing the missed opportunity when Shabab moved the ball quickly for the tall Brazilian Bruno to pick up a long ball, weave through a couple of defenders, and drill the ball past Adel Al Hosani, the Wahda goalkeeper, with 10 minutes remaining.
Shabab's resurgence under Marcos Paqueta has been notable after a poor start to the beginning of the season in which they lost five of their first eight games in the Pro League. There were even calls for club officials to replace the Brazilian coach, but they stood firmly behind him and their decision has reaped rewards.
Shabab reeled off eight wins in the league thereafter and completed a fantastic week by reaching the last 16 in the Asian Champions League (ACL) and now have a domestic cup final to look forward to.
They took the field on the back of a 2-1 away win over Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan in the ACL but were cautious against Wahda for most of the game.
Their patience, however, paid off in the end.
Haydarov fired a rocket which Al Hosani could only get his fingertips on as Shabab took the lead, but it was nearly matched within seconds, but fortunately for them, Waigo's effort from an Eisa Ahmed cross only connected with the upright.
Ismail Matar had a golden opportunity to put Wahda ahead after a scrappy and lacklustre first half.
The Wahda captain smothered a clearance from Walid Abbas, the Shabab defender, took the ball inside the box but sent the ball wide of the far post.
Al Hosani made a memorable save to deny Bruno from inside the box from space created by Haydarov, but they were the only scoring opportunities for the entire first half as both teams looked to contain rather than create.
The tempo was still at a walking pace as action resumed for the second half as Henrique made a breakaway move to set up his Brazilian compatriot, Ciel, with a close-range attempt, but Al Hosani charged out of his area to block the shot.
Al Hosani was in the spotlight again when diving to his right to hold onto Henrique's effort, but he could do little to keep out Haydarov's thunderbolt.
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