Sharjah captain Shaheen Abdulrahman described winning the President's Cup as a "dream come true" after Paco Alcacer's second-half stunner sealed victory in the final against Al Wahda on Friday.
Aiming to win the cup for a ninth time after a 19-year wait, Sharjah claimed a 1-0 win at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium thanks to Alcacer's dipping free-kick in the 52nd minute.
The final was rescheduled from its usual April-May slot following the death of President Sheikh Khalifa, and it was a summer arrival who proved the difference for Sharjah.
A 35-yard screamer from Alcacer, who joined the club from Villarreal, found the top corner early in the second half and Sharjah preserved their lead with a solid defence in front of more than 20,000 fans.
“We celebrated winning the league title in 2019 after 23 years and tonight to win the most prestigious cup after 19 years was a dream come true for me and for Sharjah,” Sharjah captain Abdulrahman said.
“The match was strong, tactical and exciting but only one team can win and we are over the moon that was us on the night. Our focus on the pitch was 100 per cent from start to finish and we carried out our manager’s plans to the dot.”
Manager Cosmin Olaroiu, who led Al Ain and Shabab Al Ahli (Al Ahli at that time) to President’s Cup finals during his time in charge at those clubs, secured the only domestic trophy missing from his cabinet, and the Romanian dedicated the triumph to the Sharjah supporters.
“The fans have been our biggest inspiration and as always they stood behind us and this is a night for them to celebrate,” said Olaroiu, who took charge of Sharjah last season. “The players carried out the game plan to perfection tonight. I’m so proud of them.”
For Wahda manager Manuel Jimenez, it was his first defeat in four games since he returned to the Abu Dhabi Club for a second stint three weeks ago.
Wahda pushed for an equaliser, with Sebastian Tagliabue and Fares Jumaa coming close.
Tagliabue’s lobbed effort from inside the area was cleared by a Sharjah defender, while Jumaa’s sliding effort from a corner slid just wide of the far post.
In the end, it was Alcacer's goal that proved the difference, and the former Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund striker said he was delighted to play a key part in the win.
“That goal was for the team and for me, a goal that I’ll cherish for a long, long time,” the Spaniard said.
“I saw the Wahda goalkeeper shuffling around and took aim at the near side of the net that I saw as a potential area he cannot reach. My aim was perfect on the night. It’s hard to say that I will hit the target but it worked very well. So happy I could do that and win the game for my team.”
Sharjah goalkeeper Darwish Mohammed said it was a “great honour” to be a member of the team that won a title bearing the name of Ruler of the UAE.
“It indeed is a great honour for me, my teammates, technical staff, the entire management of the club and above all the people of Sharjah,” he said.
“I actually dreamed of being champion of the President’s Cup. Coming into the game, we motivated each other while preparing for this game. Our coach is a master technician and his ploy worked for us tonight.”