Pro League: Al Shaab live on to fight next season with victory

Marius Sumudica can finally rest easy. The Al Shaab coach admits to restless nights up to this make-or-break game against Al Shabab, but Shaab come away with a 2-1 win to remain in the Pro League.

Naseer Khamis of Al Shaab (8) celebrates after scoring the against Al Shabab to help them to a 2-1 victory that keeps them in the Pro League for next season.
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Al Shabab Manei Mohamed Ali 63'

Al Shaab Khamis 24', N'dri 75'

DUBAI // For once, Marius Sumudica found himself short of words.

Well, almost.

"I am just so tired and drained," the Romanian said Saturday night after his team, Al Shaab, confirmed their place in the Pro League for next season with a battling 2-1 win at Al Shabab.

"This whole week, I have not slept well for even one night. All my work here at Shaab, five months of hard work, had come down to this final game, to one point.

"So it is very a special day, not just for me but for everyone at Shaab, and I would like to thank everyone for making this possible … the fans, who have always stood behind us and the management, who gave me an opportunity to work here.

"But most of all, I would like to thank the players and my staff because I know it is not easy to work with Sumudica. But they understand me. The players understand what I want and they played a very good game tonight.

"They took not just one point, but three."

Going into the game with a two-point lead over Dibba Al Fujairah, Shaab needed only a draw to survive, but they got a win, courtesy of goals from Nasser Khamis and Michael N'dri, and a spirited performance from Motaz Abdullah in goal and Filipe Teixeira in midfield.

Hassan Maatouk and the others in the Shaab team also played their part in their team's survival as well.

Sumudica conceded their task was made easier by Shabab's decision to rest their top players for Tuesday's President's Cup final against Al Ahli.

Their four foreign players were not even on the substitute's bench, nor was Walid Abbas, the UAE international.

"It was easier for us because Shabab did not play with their full team," Sumudica said.

"If the [foreign] professionals were playing, it would have been difficult for us."

By electing to play with a weakened line-up, Shabab had wedged open the door to safety for Shaab and Ajman barged it open for them with two goals inside the first 22 minutes of their match against Dibba.

The Shaab fans celebrated the news coming through from Ajman and, in the 24th minute, they were celebrating their own success when Khamis booted home the opener.

However, Abdullah Misfir's men fought back to level the scores at 2 before the break in Ajman.

But they needed a bit more than a draw, even more than a win, to survive - they needed Shaab to lose and Manei Ali's equaliser for Shabab must have raised their hopes.

The French striker N'dri, however, restored Shaab's lead and Sumudica celebrated that goal wildly, running towards the stands to celebrate with Shaab supporters.

On his return to the technical area, he was sent off by the referee for his display of jubilation.

"I was very nervous," the Romanian said. "When your survival depends on one point, in the final match of the season, it is not easy to control yourself, your actions or your emotions.

"But I am sorry [for the sending off]. I did not say anything to the referee. I just went to the Shaab fans to celebrate."

Over in Ajman, Dibba finished their season gallantly with a point following a 3-3 draw against the Etisalat Cup winners and Sumudica offered his commiserations to them, particularly to Dibba's Emirati coach Misfir.

"I have a lot of pain in my heart for the Dibba coach because he fought until the end with a small team and kept the league alive until the final round," he said.

"This is very important in football.

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