GHANTOOT // Pablo MacDonough lived up to his top billing by leading his Saudi Arabian team Zedan to the final of the President of the UAE Polo Cup.
The 10-handicap Argentine player was on target eight times, including the winner on a 60-yard penalty with 25 seconds left on the clock, to seal an 11-10 thriller over Ghantoot in the semi-final on Wednesday.
Zedan were awarded a penalty and MacDonough stepped up on his horse to fire it high and clean to secure his team’s place in Friday’s final at the Ghantoot Racing and Polo Club.
They will meet Desert Palm of Dubai, who got the better of another Saudi side, Edrees, 11-9 in the other semi-final.
“I had to do it after being provided with the opportunity,” MacDonough said of the decisive penalty.
“It was a nice challenge, too, to get the opportunity to score the winner. It was a very tight game, but I always thought we had the edge even when we were trailing 10-9 with three minutes left on the clock.”
MacDonough, 32, said it was not the first time he had to produce a winner by converting a penalty in the dying stages of a match during his career as a polo professional.
“I can’t remember how many times I have done it, but it certainly gives you a nice feeling that you have done it for the team,” said MacDonough, the highest-rated player in the 18-handicap tournament.
“It has been a fantastic tournament so far, with some excellent polo and close results. The teams are equal and it is anyone on the day. I wish we can do it one more time and win the final.”
MacDonough scored eight while his teammates Martin Gandara (two) and Facundo Fernandez (one) chipped in with their contributions. Alejandro Muzzio (seven) and Juan Zavaleta (three) got on the board for Ghantoot.
“We felt we just missed out on a real great opportunity to reach the final,” said Muzzio, the top scorer for Ghantoot.
The first two chukkas were tied at 3-3 and 4-4, and the third went in favour of Zedan 6-5. Ghantoot hit back with three goals to Zedan’s two to tie the score at 8-8 in the penultimate chukka.
They led 9-8 with an opening minute goal in the final chukka, and then 10-10 before the decisive penalty for an infringement.
In the other semi-final, Desert Palm maintained the edge over Edrees throughout the five chukkas. They went in to the final chukka with a 10-7 lead. Santiago Laborde made it 11-7 with his sixth strike in the second minute.
Juan Ruiz Ginazu cut the lead to two with a brace to take his tally to seven in the match, but that was as close Edrees got.
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