x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

President's Cup final ranks as one of my best, says Brazilian Grafite

Ahli striker hails rivals Al Shabab but insists his side were deserving winners while Shabab rue not hitting the ground running.

Grafite celebrates with his teammates. Pawan Singh / The National
Grafite celebrates with his teammates. Pawan Singh / The National

ABU DHABI // Grafite, Al Ahli's Brazilian striker and the winner of the Pro League's international player-of-the-year honours two days ago, said winning the President's Cup capped off a superb season for him and the club.

"It was a fitting result for us and good reward for all the hard work that had gone in to the season from not only the players, but the technical staff and the management," the former Wolfsburg striker said.

"I have played in a lot of finals and this game would rank as one of the best for me. We should give Al Shabab a lot of credit for their spirited play. They really pushed us hard.

"I think we deserved this trophy more than anyone else for the sheer performance this season. We won some big games and were runner-up in the league.

"Personally, for me, it has been a remarkable season, to win the player of the year and to round it off with a title.

"Surely this will motivate the team for next season to win more trophies."

Majed Naser, the goalkeeper who returned from a 17-match ban handed to him by the Football Association's disciplinary committee, was ecstatic at receiving his first medallion at Ahli.

"I am happy and thrilled," he said. "I must thank all those who stood by me and encourage me to return when I wanted to retire from the game. It was a very difficult period in my career. Winning this final was a very special moment for me."

Adnan Hussain, who moved from Baniyas during the January transfer window and scored the opening goal, said he would treasure this moment for a long time.

"To contribute in the team's victory was like a dream come true for me," he said.

"When I moved to Ahli, my first task was to win a place in that side, and for me to play in the final and score a goal was a great moment. I will relive this moment for a long, long time."

Al Shabab take pride in fightback

Mahmood Qassem, the Al Shabab defender, expressed the sombre mood of the team after going down 4-3 to Al Ahli in the President’s Cup final last night.

“We are very disappointed, because we came twice from behind and yet we couldn’t convert it to a win,” he said.

“It took about a half-hour for us to settle in and by that time Ahli had run up to a 2-0 lead. The goal before the break gave us the confidence and then we had a great second half.

"I think it was one of those days. We were not lucky on the night after playing so well. We did well to come back from two goals down and could have even taken the lead. Still, we played a good game and provided our fans a great performance against a very good side.

"It is natural to be disappointed that we didn’t win tonight, but we have had a great season after a poor start. I think we can still hold our heads high after this performance.”

apassela@thenational.ae

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