Desert Palm-1, in blue, held off a late challenge from Zedan to win the President of the UAE Cup at Ghantoot on Friday night. Delores Johnson / The National
Desert Palm-1, in blue, held off a late challenge from Zedan to win the President of the UAE Cup at Ghantoot on Friday night. Delores Johnson / The National

Wonder goal from Rashid Al Bawardi powers Desert Palm-1 to polo title

GHANTOOT // Desert Palm-1 left the best for last to clinch the President of the UAE Cup polo final in a 10-9 thriller over Zedan of Saudi Arabia on Friday night at the Ghantoot Racing and Polo Club.

They led 10-7 through a brilliant goal from Rashid Al Bawardi, who powered his horse almost the entire length of the polo field to put his team three goals ahead with more than three minutes left in the final chukka.

Zedan fired two quick goals to close the gap, but Al Bawardi’s “goal of the night” stood good at the end for his team to clinch the tie in the 18-handicap ­tournament.

“I am still trying to think how I did it,” Al Bawardi said when asked to describe his solo effort after the presentation ceremony. “Perhaps it will take a couple of hours for that to sink in.”

Last year, Desert Palm-2, led by Al Bawardi’s brother Tariq, were winners, and Rashid was ecstatic that the title will remain in the family home in Dubai for another year.

“It was good team effort,” Rashid Al Bawardi said. “It was a very competitive competition with a majority of the matches going to the wire. We are glad we won at the end.

“We will celebrate this win tonight. It is a good feeling to keep this coveted title in the family home for another year.”

Desert Palm-1 led 2-1 at the end of the first chukka through their Argentine professional Santiago Laborde’s double, with compatriot and 10-goal handicapper Pablo MacDonough getting one in between for Zedan.

Zedan led the second chukka 3-2 with MacDonough on target twice and Martin Gandara scoring the other.

They went 6-3 up in the next with two more goals from MacDonough and Laborde pulling one back.

Martin Valent made it 6-4, and Al Bawardi closed it to one-goal before MacDonough regained the two-goal cushion.

Laborde and Al Bawardi then both scored twice within two minutes to level the scores at 7-7 in the penultimate chukka.

Laborde put them two goals ahead in the first three minutes of play in the final chukka before Al Bawardi’s spectacular effort.

Gandara and MacDonough – for his sixth in the match – struck late but with just 20 seconds left as Desert Palm-1 held on to emerge champions. “It is an amazing feeling to be in the winning side twice in two years,” said Laborde, who was a member of Desert Palm-2 last year.

“The third chukka made a big difference when they took a three-goal lead, but we managed to level the scores in the next and had a great final chukka to win.

“The teams were so evenly matched and competitive, even a three-goal lead was not safe. We were a bit lucky on the night.

“Rashid scored a great goal. I tapped the ball for him from in front of our own goal line and he showed remarkable control to take the ball all the way to the other end and score. That goal really saved us at the end.”

In the play-off for third place, Bin Drai overcame Team Abu Dhabi 12-6.

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