Stung by Al Bahri in the opening match of their campaign, defending champions Al Taher bounced back in style on Thursday night, blanking Inthar 5-0 to book their place in the quarterfinals of the NAS Futsal Championship, where they will meet Fuhood Zaabeel in what should be the match of the last eight.
An own goal five second from time had seen Al Taher crash to a heartbreaking 1-2 loss in the opening match and, needing to win this match to make it the knockout stages as the second team from Group C behind Al Bahri, they responded in true champion style.
Led by their diminutive Iranian captain Ali Asghar Hassanzadeh, Al Taher were in complete control as a brace from Brazilian Jeferson Luis and a goal each from Hassanzadeh, Ahmad Abdallah and Rashid Obaid booked their ticket for the quarterfinals.
“We knew what our target from this match was, and we came out and got the job done,” said Jeferson. “Now we are through to the quarterfinal, but that is only the first of our goals for the tournament.
“We know we will face a really tough opponent, but if we play to our potential, at the level we know we are capable of, we can go very far in this tournament.”
Myself, H.H Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, attended the running race Competitions at the NAS Sports Tournament.🏃🏻♂️🏃🏻 pic.twitter.com/8FomT6yrNI— Prince Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed (@PrinceSheikhH16) May 22, 2018
Fuhood Zaabeel, meanwhile, looked in ominous form once again as they defeated Leader Sport 4-0 to take the top position in Group D, with Brazilian Taynan Da Silva scoring two for them, and Douglas Junior and Ahmed Al Hosany one each.
Earlier, in the opening match of Thursday night, Emirates Driving Institute rode roughshod over The Emperor, drubbing them 16-1 to top Group B and book a quarterfinal clash with The Storm.
Williams Oliveira Do Nascimento scored four goals for Emirates Driving, while his Brazilian compatriots Thiago Martins and Rangel Taian struck three apiece in the rout. Mohammed Abdalla Salem found the net twice, while Abdulkarim Jamil, Hashem Shah, Habib Gholoom and Jameel Mansoor scored one each.
“Our target was to win this match and go through as the top team from the group,” said Salem Jameel, the coach of Emirates Driving. “We were determined to win because, as group toppers, we would avoid Dubai Police in the quarterfinal, and they are one of the strong contenders for the title.
“Of course, The Storm are a strong unit as well and we will have to be at the top of our game if we want to reach the semi-finals. Yes, we have just scored a huge win, but we have not won anything yet. So we need to remain focused and keep this momentum going.”
With the little Jiu Jitsu champion Salama Al Ali, after the opening ceremony of NAS Sports Tournament 2018. I love you kid! pic.twitter.com/NvjozclCcg— Prince Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed (@PrinceSheikhH16) May 21, 2018
The Storm, meanwhile, are struggling with injury problems and will be missing the services of their two foreign players – Serbia’s Marko Peric and Brazilian Daniel Mendonca – in Sunday’s quarterfinal clash with Emirates Driving.
“Tests have revealed that the two players are suffering from cruciate ligament injuries,” said Ahmed Al Taher, the manager of The Storm team. “We would have replaced those players to improve our chances of competing in the knockout stages of the tournament, but unfortunately, the rules do not allow for the replacement of injured players once the tournament has started.
“So we are left with only one foreign player Leonardo Da Rosa, and we will try to do the best we can in the quarterfinals.”
Emirates Driving Institute beat The Emperor 16-1 (Group B); Al Taher beat Inthar 5-0 (Group C); Fuhood Zaabeel beat Leader Sport 4-0 (Group D).
Saturday: Dubai Police vs MKS (10pm); Al Bahri vs Sport 4 All (11.30pm)
Sunday: Emirates Driving Institute vs The Storm (10pm); Fuhood Zaabeel vs Al Taher (11.30pm)
Al Ain and UAE playmaker Abdulrahman was named Best Emirati player while Al Wahda’s top-scorer Tagliabue was named Best Foreign Player.
Al Ain goalkeeper Khalid Essa won the Golden Glove award while Hussein El Shahat was voted Fans’ Player of the Year. Al Ain’s domination continued with Zoran Mamic collecting the Best Coach award after steering the Garden City outfit to the AGL and President’s Cup double.
The Arabian Gulf League and President’s Cup winners were staring at a 4-0 scoreline when Youssef El-Arabi, Nam Tae-Hee, Ismail Mohammad and Almoez Ali netted with 55 minutes gone.
But substitute Ahmed Khalil reduced the deficit later in the second half before Ibrahim Diaky added another for Al Ain late in the game.
While those late goals will give them a slim hope in Doha, they will have to do without Brazilian winger Caio for next week’s second leg after he was given a straight red card in the dying minutes for kicking an opponent.
Their cause isn’t helped by the fact that no team in the 2017/18 campaign has stopped Al Duhail this season with the Qatari league champions maintaining their 100 per cent record with seven consecutive wins in the competition.
Prior to the game, Al Ain coach Zoran Mamic said his players did not fear their opposition, who became only the fourth side in the competition to win all their six group matches.
But Al Ain struggled to find their tempo early on and were left needing to play catch-up after Al Duhail showed that fine form early on at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium with just 16 minutes on the clock.
Khalid Essa denied Almoez but the striker found El-Arabi, who made no mistake to latch the ball home.
Mamic’s side found it difficult to create opportunities with Marcus Berg, who has scored 35 goals in 36 appearances isolated up front. The Boss’ task got even more difficult, when their own corner resulted in Al Duhail taking a 2-0 lead going into half-time.
On the counter-attack, Mohammed released the Tae-Hee and the South Korean nutmegged Ahmed Barman to burst clear before a clever finish.
Whatever was said by Mamic in the dressing room didn’t do the trick as Al Duhail piled more misery with a third goal.
Ismail Ahmed was the culprit with the centre-back punished for his poor touch just four minutes after the restart. His poor clearance allowed Al Duhail take advantage with Ismail Mohammad clipping the ball over Essa.
With Omar Abdulrahman failing to produce the form that saw him claim the AFC Player of the Year in 2016, Al Duhail continued to dominate in midfield.
And despite the 3-0 scoreline, continued to press forward.
On 55 minutes, Al Ain found themselves 4-0 down when Almoez Ali scored the visitors’ fourth of the night.
Mamic brought Khalil on and the decision paid off when the former Al Jazira and Al Shabab Al Ahli striker reduced the deficit on 68 minutes. Diaky added to his team’s tally with four minutes remaining.