The Under 16 boys went toe-to-toe in the Emirates Islamic National School League Quarter Finals. LFI Pompidou march one step closer to NSL title retention while Al Ain Juniors and two GEMS schools stay in contention.
The Under 14 knockout stages of the Emirates Islamic National School League took place at the Sevens, and what a dramatic day it was. LFI Pompidou continue their quest for title retention while Wellington (DXB), NIMS (Sharjah), and Our Own English School Fujairah stay in the hunt.
Allesio Cicchi headed in a golden goal winner 10 seconds from the end of extra time to give reigning Emirates Islamic National School League Football Under-14 champions Lycee Francais International Georges Pompidou a shot at defending their title.
It was a crushing blow for opponents Indian High School Oud Metha who would have headed into the penalty shootout with confidence having more than matched LFI in their highly entertaining quarter-final encounter at The Sevens on Saturday.
Oud Metha goalkeeper Piyush Salain enjoyed an inspired afternoon between the sticks, at one point pulling off a triple save to deny the champions from taking the lead.
Opposite number Hedi Hbaieb was also kept busy and both were probably mentally preparing for penalties when Cicchi rose to meet Lyes Messaoudi’s corner with a bullet header that finally beat Salain.
“For the first half it was very difficult, we played very bad, the coach told us we had to play better,” said man-of-the-match Messaoudi, 13.
“With 10 seconds left of the match we scored. We were nervous in the first half but in the second I think we played more like a team.”
The match was reminiscent of LFI’s march to glory last year. They had to come from 3-2 down in the inaugural NSL U-14 final against Al Salaf Al Saleh Private School, scoring a last minute goal to send the tie to extra time where they won 4-3.
“I think a victory in that manner can help us,” added Messaoudi.
“There is pressure on us being the champions. Teams don’t like us but hopefully we can emulate the team of last year and win it again.”
LFI will meet Our Own English High School Fujairah in the semi-finals on February 4 after they also needed extra time to beat Dubai’s Delhi Private School.
Khaled Mohamed, scorer of their goal in a 1-0 win, said: “It felt more special to win it in the way we did. Inshallah we can go on and win it (the tournament) now.”
In another closely fought encounter, Mahmoud Wahbeh’s goal proved the difference as Wellington International School beat The Millennium School Dubai 1-0.
In fact, NIMS Sharjah were the only side across all eight U-14 and U-16 quarter-finals to win by more than a goal, overcoming Abu Dhabi Indian School thanks to goals from Mohammad Shafiq Taj and Hafeez Munaf.