Friday,26 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1407, (30 August - 5 September 2018)
Friday,26 April, 2019
Issue 1407, (30 August - 5 September 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Al-Wahda are Super Cup winners in Cairo

Extending the football bridge, Egypt hosted the UAE Super Cup final, reports Abeer Anwar

photos: Khaled Al-Fiqi
photos: Khaled Al-Fiqi

Defending champions Al-Wahda won the UAE Super Cup after defeating Al-Ain 4-3 on penalties on Saturday. The game ended 3-3 in regulation time.

Aside from the winning team, the game’s significance lied in that the match was played in Egypt, just as the last three Egypt Super Cup games were played in the UAE.   

The UAE Super Cup, commonly known as the Arabian Gulf Super Cup, is the curtain raiser of the United Arab Emirates football season. It is played between the previous season’s Pro-League winners and President’s Cup winners.

At the 30 June Stadium in Cairo, Al-Ain were behind 3-0 at the half. Al-Wahda set the ball rolling with a quick double. In the fourth minute, Al-Wahda striker Sebastian Tagliabue won the ball following faulty footwork by Al-Ain defender Mohamed Ahmed. Tagliabue then tricked-out a pass through Ahmed Barman and Mohanad Salem for Al-Wahda veteran Ismail Matar to slip the delivery past Al-Ain keeper Khaled Eissa.

In the seventh minute, Al-Wahda’s Mourad Batna produced a stunner to make it a two-goal advantage. The Moroccan foxed Tsukasa Shiotani, saw Eissa off the line and scored with a long drifter that ricocheted off the underside of the crossbar before bouncing in.

In the 36th minute, Al-Ain won a penalty as Al-Wahda defender Mohamed Abdel-Baset fouled Hussein Al-Shahat. But Al-Ain’s Swedish striker Marcus Berg’s spot kick was superbly saved by an alert Rashed Ali who blocked every shot that mattered.

Al-Wahda continued their rich vein of form with Batna producing a sharp cross from the right flank for Tagliabue to head in and make it 3-0 in 40 minutes.

In the 62nd minute, Al-Ain started their improbable comeback. Egyptian Al-Shahat won a long pass and bisected Al-Wahda’s backline of Hamdan Al-Kamali and Rim Chang-woo to find Berg, who played in the World Cup in Russia, who easily deposited the ball into the goal.

After 10 minutes, Al-Ain scored through a penalty. Al-Kamali fouled Caio and Ibrahim Diaky made it 3-2. In the 77th minute, Caio Fernandes made it a 3-3 game with a brilliant curling shot from the left flank.

In the ensuing penalty shootout, Al-Ain had Diaky, Berg and Bandar Al-Ahbabi hit the target whereas Al-Shahat and Caio missed. For Al-Wahda, Batna, Rim Chang-woo, Al-Kamali and Leonardo scored but Tagliabue failed to convert.

Thus, Al-Wahda lifted the Arabian Gulf Super Cup, the 18th edition of the championship, for the third time, starting the UAE season with a trophy. Al-Ain open their Arabian Gulf League defence on Friday, away to the Emirates club.

Berg said after the match, “we have to apologise to everyone. It was not Al-Ain; it was not our quality. It was very bad from the start. So we have to be ashamed for that. In the second half we showed different quality and the level we should perform at. The first half we have to look back and see what we can do better. The second half, it’s the lowest level we should have for this season. We can perform like this the full year for every game. Both first and second half we have to learn from.

“When we play like the second half, this is our level. First half, when we’re not concentrating, when not doing the things we should, then we hurt ourselves. That’s the truth. So we have to learn from this and look forward to the season,” Berg said.

Berg said he rejected interest from Europe this summer to remain with the UAE champions. The Sweden international, 32, was a huge success last season during his debut campaign in UAE football, scoring 36 goals in 36 appearances to fire Al-Ain to both the Arabian Gulf League title and the President’s Cup crown. He also sealed the top flight’s Golden Boot.

Al-Ain were without influential player Omar Abdel-Rahman who left for Saudi club Al-Hilal.

After the match, officials from Egypt and the UAE exchanged trophies. A UAE delegation was received by Egypt’s Minister of Youth and Sport Ashraf Sobhi at his office to discuss means of cooperation in the future.

Under the auspicious of Egypt’s Ministry of Youth and Sports and the UAE Ambassador to Egypt Gomaa Mubarak Al-Jennabi, both Al-Wahda and Al-Ain chose to play their Arabian Gulf Super Cup in Cairo amid celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, who was the principal driving force behind the formation of the United Arab Emirates. 

It is not the first time that the UAE Super Cup was held in Egypt; the 2016 edition was also held in Cairo. 

In a press conference held a day before the match, Sobhi and Jennabi said the UAE and Egypt “were like brothers, walking hand in hand” in all the various aspects of investment “so it was normal to continue such bonds in sports as well”.

Sobhi added that Sheikh Zayed’s name would pave the way for every success in Egypt “as he is represented in every Egyptian heart and in every governorate in Egypt. He loved Egypt and he is loved by all Egyptians and will be forever.” 

Al-Jenabbi thanked Sobhi for the ministry’s cooperation in making the event a success. Abdallah Nasser Al-Jennabi, head of the Pro League Committee (PLC) of the UAE, said that he was amazed by the amount of media interest in the event and the full coverage they gave ahead of the game. “I am very happy with such a spirit and since we arrived in Egypt, we have felt that the Egyptians are very welcoming and happy that we are here. I thank everyone for such warmth and hospitality.”

The well-oiled event, helped in part by Noura Adel, PLC Media & Social Communication manager, who made the job of journalists easier, was organised by Presentation Sports Company, sponsor of the Egyptian Football Association (EFA). Mohamed Kamel, CEO of Presentation Sports, said in the press conference that the company had held eight previous events between Egypt and the UAE and was seeking to add more events “as people in both countries are longing for such tournaments and gatherings which add to the historical relationship between the two sides”.

Nasser Al-Jennabi also announced that a big event will be held on 1 December in Al-Ain between Ahly Club of Egypt and Al-Ain in addition to the Egyptian Super Cup that will take place in Abu Dhabi. The date has yet to be announced.

As part of their programme, Presentation Sports took guests, players and coaches to sightseeing tours of the Giza Pyramids and Al-Muizz Street where they enjoyed seeing monuments and tasting traditional Egyptian food.

Al-Wahda Head Coach Laurențiu Reghecampf told a press conference ahead of Saturday’s match that because the game was the start of the UAE’s new football season, both teams were eager to start with a victory. “We were unlucky in both league and cup competitions and that is why we need to win the cup and start the new season with high spirits especially for the players.”

Reghecampf added that he was very happy to play in Cairo. “It is the first time for me to be in Egypt and I thank the Egyptian people for their hospitality and warm welcome and I hope we will show up here once more.”

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