x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

UAE 'better prepared' for Gulf Cup final

Defender Mohammed Aref Al Jachi says his team are wiser from previous Kuwait test and can defend the title.

UAE's Abdullah Al Harmodi, No 23, tries to jam the puck past Eissa Sultan Albloushi, the Bahrain goalkeeper.
UAE's Abdullah Al Harmodi, No 23, tries to jam the puck past Eissa Sultan Albloushi, the Bahrain goalkeeper.

ABU DHABI // Mohammed Aref Al Jachi, the UAE defender, said his team had learnt a valuable lesson the last time they played Kuwait, their opponents in the Gulf Cup final on Friday night.

And he promised they would be sharper and more combative as they set out to defend their title at Abu Dhabi Ice Rink.

Kuwait showed a remarkable improvement when they stretched the UAE to the full before the hosts clinched a 1-0 win in a penalty tiebreak after a 2-2 deadlock in the league round on Wednesday.

"We learnt a good lesson by being complacent and that has given the players a good shake-up before the final," Al Jachi said.

"That is behind us now and the players know that they need to play as a team and play to their potential to win against Kuwait. We are confident if we can combine these qualities we hold a good chance."

Al Jachi also praised Kuwait for their bold show and stressed they were better team than they saw last time.

"They were prepared, better organised and committed than they were before," he said. "We can't make excuses but blame ourselves that we were unable to play as we would have liked it to be."

Kuwait have previously played without a national team coach and Marko Zidarevic, who was the UAE coach for more than 10 years, seems to have made a big difference.

"We know Marko very well and he has done some excellent work to raise their level of the Kuwaiti team," Al Jachi said.

"He has worked on their fitness, improved the skating and the technical levels, and has taught them to play a tactical game. They obviously are a stronger team than we knew them a few months ago."

Kuwait reached the last four in the IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia that was won by the UAE in March.

They never crossed paths though as Kuwait were beaten by Thailand in the semi-finals and went down to Malaysia in the play-off for third.

However, they were the finalists in the inaugural Gulf Cup in Kuwait in May 2010. Kuwait outclassed Oman 11-1 in last night's opening semi-final and the UAE were equally impressive with a clinical 12-0 demolition of Bahrain, a team without a win in four games.

Mohammed Al Shamsi opened the floodgates in the fourth minute. Omar Al Shamsi doubled it two minutes later followed by goals from Ibrahim Bu Debs and Mubarak Al Mazrouie for a 4-0 lead at the end of the first period.

Mohammed Al Ajami fired a hat trick to give Kuwait a 5-1 lead at the end of the first period. They extended the lead to 10-1 in the next and then gave their reserves more ice time in the final period.

apassela@thenational.ae

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