Sharjah's maiden Super Cup
Dubai: Arabian Gulf League (AGL) champions Sharjah battled more than an hour with just ten men to win 4-3 on penalties in the one-off Arabian Gulf Super Cup at Al Nasr Club’s Al Maktoum Stadium, late on Saturday.
With the 67 per cent humidity not helping the cause of football too much, all credit to the King as they displayed a lot of character and resilience to keep the otherwise attack-minded Shabab Al Ahli Dubai offensive line at bay through a major part of the encounter.
This is the first time-ever that Sharjah were playing in this one-off competition that is meant to be a season-opener of sorts. Ironically, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai will get the AGL under way with an away game against Hatta at 6.45 pm on September 19.
Reduced to ten men after a straight red card to winger Al Hassan Saleh in the 30th minute, debutants Sharjah hung on for the entire regulation period till the shoot-out stopped the Reds from a record fifth crown in the 12 years of this competition.
Henrique Luvannor and Federico Cartabia missed for Shabab Al Ahli, while Majid Nasser stopped Igor Coronado’s kick in the shoot-out.
The early part of the match was evenly contested with Shabab Al Ahli Dubai enjoying a slight advantage while pressing from deep within their own half. But once the red card came, the balance tilted completely in favour of the Dubai team, thanks mainly to the speed generated by their frontmen, especially Henrique Luvannor and Mohammad Juma.
Champions on four previous occasions — 2008-’09, 2013-’14, 2014-’15 and 2016-’17 — Shabab Al Ahli Dubai were the more composed side going by their superior possession rate.
They had a better look at the Sharjah goal, and should have gone clear in the very first minute when Luvannor relayed to an unmarked Davide Mariani, but the Swiss playmaker blasted way over the goal.
In the tenth minute, Luvannor was in the thick of action as he accepted a long ball inside the area, but saw an onrushing Shaheen Abdullah hastily clear the ball to safety.
The first time Sharjah had a clear look at the Shabab Al Ahli Dubai goal was in the 26th minute when last season’s best foreign player Igor Coronado let go of a stiff grounder that was eventually pouched by Majid Nasser on his second attempt.
Four minutes later, left winger Saleh was shown a straight red by referee Mohammad Obaid Khadim after consulting the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) and that proved to have an impact on the remainder of the game as Sharjah went on the back foot.
After several build-up moves, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai came closest during the first half injury period when Juma’s shot from a narrow angle was well parried away by Sharjah goalkeeper Adel Al Hossani as the deadlock remained unbroken at half-time.
Given the luxury of an extra man on the pitch, the team from Dubai went all out in the second half and the closest they came for a likely goal was in the 72nd minute when new recruit Leonardo De Souza’s shot missed the target narrowly.
The men in red literally camped inside the Sharjah territory, but the team from the neighbouring Emirate showed a lot of character to hang in till the end to win their first-ever Super Cup in the deciding tie-breaker.
Sharjah x Shabab Al Ahli Dubai 0-0 (win 4-3 in tie-breaker)