x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Valdivia leaves Shabab spellbound

Jorge Valdivia served up two goals and a man of the match performance for the Al Ain fans against Al Shabab.

Al Ain 2 // Al Shabab 0 Forget flowers, nothing says 'I'm sorry' like two goals and a man of the match performance, which is exactly what Jorge Valdivia served up for the Al Ain fans against Al Shabab. Winfried Schaefer restored the Chilean playmaker to the starting XI, much to the delight of the home fans in the Khalifa bin Zayed stadium, as he was instrumental in their 2-0 win of the defending Etisalat champions. Toninho Cerezo's side had no answers to deal with the magical South American, who dictated every attack and always looked the most likely to score or play a devastating final pass. Valdivia, making only his second appearance in an Al Ain shirt due to a combination of injuries, international duty and delaying his return to the country so he could stay in Chile to celebrate his birthday, was inviting the Shabab defence into reckless tackles and on 13 minutes punished them for their barbaric approach. Scythed down on the edge of the box after evading two Shabab defenders, Valdivia superbly curled home a free-kick that nestled inch perfect in the top right corner. Valdivia's second goal was equally as brilliant as he showed superb control to bring an Ahmed Modid cross down on his chest and dribble past Nasir Yousif and Waleed Murad before slotting the ball past Rabee. The celebrations that followed suggest his coach and teammates have forgiven him for his late return as he ran to the sidelines to celebrate with Schaefer and the rest of the squad. Valdivia finally got some protection from the referee on 34 minutes as Murad was booked for a robust challenge on the man they call "El Mago" (The Magician) in the centre circle. Shabab looked to bounce back and Abdullah Ali allowed a kick from Rabee to bounce rather than heading it clear just before the break to present Soror Salim with a chance to get the visitors back in the match, but Motaz Abdullah pushed his attempted lob over the bar. The tackles came thick and fast in the opening exchanges of the second half with Valdivia on the receiving end of most of them. It was no surprise when he himself picked up a booking as his patience finally snapped. The pitch was beginning to look more like a battle field than a football field as player after player was left in a crumpled heap as tackle after tackle went unpunished. Shabab offered little in attack with Rinato's tame free-kick the only time Rabee touched the ball for the first 22 minutes of the second half. Yousif's name also entered the referee's notebook ten minutes from time for being the latest Shabab hatchet man to try and stop Valdivia, but in the end the Chilean international will see his bumps and bruises in the morning as badges of honour for what was a majestic display. sluckings@thenational.ae