While Al Wahda reached the doorstep of the Arabian Gulf Cup final by trashing Dibba Al Fujairah 4-2, Al Wasl and Shabab Al Ahli Dubai lived to fight another day after a goalless draw in their first leg semi-final on Friday.
Those in attendance at Rashid Stadium were subjected to a match devoid of much action, as neither team pushed the pace until the second half when Shabab Al Ahli Dubai put their foot on the gas pedal.
The home side had multiple chances to get out on the front foot, but Saeed Jassem’s header in the 56th minute was stopped by Al Wasl goalkeeper Yousif Al Zaabi, who later stretched for a save on Erceg Ante in the 87th minute to preserve the draw.
The result means the berth for the final will come down to the second leg on March 22.
Al Wahda, meanwhile, are sitting pretty after their goal-fest at Zayed Sports City.
Sebastian Tagliabue netted a hat-trick, with scores in the third, 63rd (penalty) and 81st minutes to power the Clarets to victory.
Diogo da Silva did his part for the visitors by scoring a brace, but Dibba will have their work cut out in the second leg to advance.
A motion has been accepted to impose a near €1 million (Dh4.5m) block on UAE coach Alberto Zaccheroni’s wages, as a dispute between the Italian and a prominent football agent looks set to be resolved in the courtroom in Italy.
Zaccheroni, 64, signed a deal in October until the end of January 2019’s Asian Cup worth €3.6m (Dh16.2m). A disagreement has broken out about the payment of commission earned from the move, which sees the Italian pitted against Pedro Pinto – a representative from Porto whose clients include Paris Saint-Germain’s Unai Emery, Swansea’s Carlos Carvalhal and Espanyol’s Quique Sanchez Flores.
But Zaccheroni and his legal team insist Dubai-based, Iraqi agent Najim Mohammed of Hattrick Sports Services was solely responsible for concluding talks with the UAE Football Association – thus making him the only person eligible for compensation.
A motion to begin civil proceedings about the matter was filed in the first week of February, with leading members of the Emirates governing body asked to travel by the plaintiff – Pinto – and provide evidence. There is no suggestion of wrongdoing in regards to the UAE FA representatives.
A judge in Italy also accepted a request this week to ensure the disputed amount of €975,000 (Dh4.4m) would be taken from Zaccheroni’s remuneration and placed into a holding account controlled by the Italian courts until a decision is reached on the case.
“In September 2017, Mr Zaccheroni sent me a letter of interest to be UAE national team head coach,” said Pinto, whose claim totals compensation and damages suffered.
“Subsequently and still in September, he gave me an exclusive mandate to negotiate the post.”
Mr Pinto claims Mr Zaccheroni ignored signed documents and closed the deal without him. Pinto says he tried to reach Zaccheroni’s lawyer but without success and then raised the lawsuit in Italy.
This position is explicitly rejected by Zaccheroni’s legal representative – who has until the end of May to submit a reply to the writ of summons – Luca Ferrari, head of sports for Withers LLP law firm.
He said: “Unfortunately it is not unusual to have to deal with unwarranted claims in football but any claimant would be well offside here, because the whole transaction has been straightforwardly handled with the UAE FA.”
The UAE FA has not commented on the matter.
Pinto has insisted that an exclusive mandate signed on September 28 by the ex-AC Milan, Juventus and Japan tactician contracted him to handle negotiations with the Emirati governing body to be the replacement for Edgardo Bauza, after his defection to Saudi Arabia. UAE-based businessman Karim Mubaret would later be involved.
A letter of notification about the civil proceedings was sent out to Zaccheroni’s representative on February 6.
Correspondence has been ongoing in recent weeks between the two parties.
Zaccheroni has been tasked with making the final of next year’s Asian Cup, on home soil.
His tenure has included a miserly performance at the Gulf Cup, where one goal was scored on the way to shock defeat in a penalty shootout to minnows Oman during January 5’s final in Kuwait City.
Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club coach Mahdi Ali has not been lulled into a false sense of security by the recent travails of Arabian Gulf Cup semi-final opponents Al Wasl, as he looks to claim silverware from a trying inaugural campaign.
Teething problems have defined the club’s painful situation since May’s shock merger of Al Shabab, last term’s Cup winners Al Ahli and promoted Dubai CSC. They now have a chance to earn a shot at glory from Friday over two legs against the Cheetahs who once looked bound for an incredible 2017/18, but have lost their last four games in the Arabian Gulf League and AFC Champions League.
“Our players will not be fooled by the negative results of Al Wasl recently, and will be focused on achieving a positive result,” said ex-UAE tactician Ali, whose troops sit a distant sixth in the top flight after a string of injuries and call-ups to national service.
“I have great confidence in the players and their ability to manage the game.”
Prolific Senegalese centre forward Makhete Diop and UAE full-back Abdelaziz Sanqour head a list of seven major absentees.
Meanwhile, opposite number Rodolfo Arruabarrena is determined to end his storied club’s long trophy drought.
Wasl were the UAE’s dominant club of the 1980s, but last lifted the 2009/10 GCC Champions League.
Arruabarrena said: “I know how much the fans want to win this title.
“The league has been 99 per cent decided, so in the coming period we will strive to get into at least one cup final.”
Wasl are certain to be without banned 12-goal striker Caio Canedo. They can gain confidence from the fact when the teams last met on December 8 in the AGL, they earned a dominant 3-0 victory.
Share with us your picture using our special snap chat filter at Rashid Stadium during our match VS alwasl on Friday 09th March! be from the first 10 persons who share our club snapchat filter on their personal accounts to win with us. Snap.. Share.. #shabab_alahli pic.twitter.com/oY1FCzCzKI— نادي شباب الأهلي دبي (@alahlicclub) March 7, 2018
AL WAHDA v DIBBA AL FUJAIRAH
Al Wahda will not struggle for motivation when they scrap for a spot in the Arabian Gulf Cup’s final against Dibba Al Fujairah, according to coach Laurentiu Reghecampf.
The 2015/16 winners will be overwhelming favourites on Friday against minnows who have never got this far before and have battled relegation all season. Their only worry is the comedown from last week’s 6-2 thrashing in the Arabian Gulf League-summit meeting at bitter rivals Al Ain.
“We have enough motivation to bypass the Arabian Gulf Cup’ semi-finals and win the title,” said Reghecampf. “But we know the Dibba Al Fujairah game will be difficult.”
Meanwhile, Dibba tactician Paulo Comelli has vowed to go on the front foot against lauded opponents.
A yawning seven places and 19 points separate the combatants in the top flight.
Comelli said: “The game is very important for our team. We have made history with this club by qualifying to this stage and we will try to get as far as possible.”