Shabab Al Ahli claim Arabian Gulf Cup after sudden death shootout

Mahdi Ali side's triumph keeps them on course for second cup double in three seasons

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Shabab Al Ahli were crowned Arabian Gulf Cup champions on Friday night, defeating Dubai rivals Al Nasr on penalties in Sharjah.

After the match finished goalless, Mahdi Ali’s side held their nerve that little bit better in the shoot-out at Sharjah Stadium, taking the crown in sudden death. Nasr’s Mohammed Ayed sent the decisive spot kick wide, prompting the Shabab Al Ahli contingent to race en masse to goalkeeper and captain Majed Naser, who had earlier prolonged proceedings by denying Ryan Mendes.

The 5-4 penalty win secured a second title since Mahdi Ali returned to the club, and took the former UAE national team manager's unbeaten streak to an impressive 21 matches.

The two teams have it all to do again next month, when they meet in the President’s Cup final.

The victory was Shabab Al Ahli's fifth in the competition dating back before the club's merger in 2017 and keeps them on course to repeat a second cup double in three seasons.

In winning, Mahdi Ali became the first Emirati to lift the League Cup in the professional era.

Shabab Al Ahli had begun the final the brighter of the two teams: Federico Cartabia sliced wide early on as he charged forward before he then curled a free-kick on to the top of the crossbar.

At the other end, Naser was grateful to see Mendes’s deflected effort float beyond his far post.

Ramon Diaz’s men had two presentable chances in the matter of minutes midway through the first half, when Dia Saba dipped a half volley that Naser was fortunate not to let slip through his fingers.

Moments later, Glauber shot straight at the former UAE international from a Mahmoud Khamis cross.

However, that proved the Brazilian defender’s penultimate contribution to the clash.

Just after the half-hour, his studs-up challenge connected high on the shin of Igor Jesus and, having initially brandished a yellow card, referee Omar Al Ali was persuaded to consult the pitchside monitor.

The decision was upgraded, deservedly, to a straight red. Almost immediately, Shabab Al Ahli threatened on the break but Tariq Ahmed’s superb, last-ditch challenge prevented Carlos Eduardo from scoring.

Not long into the second half, Shabab Al Ahli thought they had made most of the advantage. Nasr’s Saeed Suwaidan was judged to have tripped Jaloliddan Masharipov inside the penalty area, with Al Ali pointing to the spot.

Nasr’s protestations, though, convinced the official to again check his monitor, and the spot kick was quickly rescinded. Rightly so, since the contact had been minimal at most. Not long after, Masharipov forced a low save from Ahmed Shambiah.

Sharjah, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: John McAuley. Sport. Ref Omar Mohamed Alali reverses the penalty. Shabab Al Ahli v Al Nasr in the Arabian Gulf Cup Final. Friday, April 9th, 2021. Sharjah. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Referee Omar Mohamed Alali reverses his penalty decision. Chris Whiteoak / The National

On 83 minutes, Nasr were provided something of a lifeline, with Shabab Al Ahli centre-back Mohammed Marzouq sent off for a second bookable offence. The UAE international was a fraction late in tackling Sebastian Tagliabue, ending his match early.

Still, Shabab Al Ahli should have clinched the contest in injury time. Majed Hassan floated a pinpoint cross onto Eduardo’s head, only for the midfielder to completely mistime his effort. Mahdi Ali threw his head into his hands.

And so penalties decided it. Eduardo’s opener was brilliantly saved by Shambiah, Toze responded by firing high and wide, and then Shambiah repelled Jesus with another excellent stop.

With the others standing strong, it was left to Mendes to seal the encounter. However, the Cape Verde winger was denied as Naser flung himself to his right, sending the shoot-out into sudden death.

With the tension ratcheting up, Shabab Al Ahli substitute Abdelaziz Sanqour squeezed his penalty past Shambiah, while Yaquob Al Baloushi stayed clam to extend the drama.

Masharipov, a revelation since joining the club on loan, then cooly chipped his effort into the far corner, putting the pressure back on Nasr. Defender Mohammed Ayed then side-footed wide the ball and Shabab Al Ahli were champions.