x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Wahda could yet salvage two trophies from a wretched season

The Abu Dhabi club are a shadow of the team who won the league in 2010 but they could yet lift the President's Cup to add to the Super Cup they won earlier this season.

Josef Hickersberger could finish the season with two trophies.
Josef Hickersberger could finish the season with two trophies.

The cups spread across the nation

It sometimes seems as if Al Wahda have not been in form since the spring of 2010, when they won the league. Stubbornly inert in the transfer market, sellers of half their back line, racked by injuries, they have won only 10 from 30 matches in all domestic competitions this term.

But as we enter the final stages of the 2011/12 season, the Abu Dhabi side alone can make this claim: they have a chance to win two of the four UAE competitions.

Wahda won the Super Cup, in a shoot-out with Al Jazira, back in September, and they play in the semi-finals of the President's Cup on Sunday. Given that they have won only five points from eight league matches in 2012, we cannot consider them favourites to win the country's second-biggest competition. But they are having a better season than Baniyas and Sharjah, two of the other three semi-finalists.

If we concede that Al Ain will win the league, and they hold a nine-point lead with five games to play, it seems likely that the four domestic titles will go to four different clubs.

For most players, coaches and executives, spreading the wealth must seem an attractive notion, especially after Jazira won the two biggest competitions last year.

"This is good, when no one team controls all the trophies," said Dr Saad Abrahim, an assistant coach at Ajman, one of the minority of Pro League sides who cannot win silverware this season. "Some teams have set different priorities and have focused on them as the season has gone on.

"Al Ain are winning the league; it's finished. For many others, at least they can still win something, which makes their supporters happy."

No fewer than seven clubs can still make an addition to their trophy case.

Al Ain will win the league title. Al Shabab and Al Ahli have reached next month's Etisalat Cup final.

Jazira, Wahda, Baniyas and Sharjah are still in the running for the President's Cup.

As dominant as Al Ain have been in the league, they failed to overcome a slow start in the Etisalat Cup, and earlier Baniyas sent them out of the President's Cup in the quarter-finals.

Ahli have been mostly harmless everywhere but the Etisalat Cup; they won Group B and sent home Al Wasl in the semi-finals. Shabab have been competent across most formats, as have Jazira, but their chances of winning a domestic competition are down to one each.

Baniyas and Wahda have saved some of their best football for President's Cup matches, each of them ousting two Pro League teams to reach the final four. The former's 1-0, extra-time victory over Al Ain in the quarter-finals is particularly noteworthy, and Wahda's 3-2 last-eight triumph over Wasl was significant, too.

And then we have Sharjah, who are having a nightmare season. "The King" are at the bottom of the league table and seem likely to be relegated for the first time in club history. They also failed to win any of their 10 Etisalat Cup matches and are 4-7-18 in all competitions.

Yet here they are in the semi-finals of the President's Cup, and if they can add to their record by winning it for a ninth time, it would mitigate the pain of a drop to the First Division.

It is, perhaps, ungenerous to point out that Sharjah are in the semi-finals after taking the easiest of paths, with victories over the First Division sides Al Khaleej and Kalba. That may be overlooked if they can oust the holders Jazira at Al Ain on Sunday.

Wahda, meanwhile, still can pull off a 2011/12 double. A win over Baniyas at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium late on Sunday, a victory in the final on April 23, and they will have two trophies from a spotty season. It will seem almost like hoarding.


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