Al Jazira boss Henk ten Cate couldn’t believe what he had seen after an epic quarter-final against Sharjah in the President’s Cup.
The Pride of Abu Dhabi triumphed 6-5 on penalties on Thursday after a rollercoaster contest which saw them recover from 2-0 down in normal time and 4-2 in arrears during extra-time.
They were indebted to both Thiago Neves for a superb hat-trick and UAE No. 1 Ali Khaseif’s vital save in the shootout from Bader Abdulrahman.
“This match was exciting and implausible,” said the 61-year-old Dutchman, whose reward is a last-four clash with Arabian Gulf League champions Al Ahli next weekend. “The Jazira players did an exceptional job. The game should be a reference for all regarding the nature of cup games.”
Success in the UAE’s premier cup competition would end a four-year trophy drought for Jazira and partly salvage a dreadful campaign.
Meanwhile, Al Wasl stand-in Salmeen Abdulrahman pointed the finger at the officials after a controversial 4-2 extra-time loss to 2014 winners Al Ain.
In case you weren't aware of what happened last night, Al Jazira's haphazard season continued with this absurdity..https://t.co/qcKyTDohpr— Matt Jones (@MattJones360) May 13, 2016
Doubles from Omar Abdulrahman and Douglas helped the Boss through, with Ali Salmeen and Caio Canedo’s equalisers ultimately counting for nothing.
The Cheetahs were denied a penalty for left-back Saeed Musabbeh’s handball on 90 minutes, while their centre-back Hassan Zahran was harshly punished for the same offence at the other end two minutes after the restart.
Assistant coach Abdulrahman – standing in for Gabriel Calderon, who is officially on a “two-day vacation” but has been sacked – said: “The two penalties were the turning points. We should have been given a penalty, and they should not.”
For Al Ain, boss Zlatko Dalic was content to tick off another fixture. His side now play Bani Yas.
The 28-year- old has two years remaining on his contract at Al Nahyan Stadium but cast doubt on his future following the 3-0 victory against Bani Yas on the final day of the Arabian Gulf League season last Sunday.
“Maybe I stay, maybe I go, I don’t know,” said the former Arsenal man.
“Next season you will see what will happen with my situation at the club because I have two more years on my contract, but you have to talk with the president, which I haven’t done yet.”
Denilson headed straight back to his homeland following the campaign’s conclusion to undergo knee surgery for a problem that he has been dealing with for most of his debut campaign in the Emirates.
“I have to go back to Brazil for an operation on my knee, it is serious,” he said.
“I’ll stay there for 5-6 weeks but I hope I will come back stronger next season. I will come back and you will see what happens with my situation.”
Denilson has been a pivotal figure when fit for the Clarets, scoring two goals in 29 appearances in all competitions.
Despite voicing uncertainty, he hopes he will remain in the UAE capital.
“I don’t know what will happen in my career but I’m enjoying it here,” said Denilson following the Clarets’ 3-0 defeat of Bani Yas which saw them claim third spot behind champions Al Ahli and runners-up Al Ain.
That has guaranteed Javier Aguirre’s men a place in the Champions League playoffs, a hurdle Wahda failed to clear two seasons ago.
They have not participated in the competition proper since 2011 but Denilson hopes that changes.
“I’m very happy because it’s my first season here and you are in the AFC Champions League so this is very important for me personally and the club because we haven’t played in it for five years,” he said.
“When you come to this season, no-one believed in Al Wahda so we have shown. I say congratulations to Javier because he has taken us into the Champions League.
“It’s been an amazing season. I hope next season will be even better.”
The 2015/16 AGL awards, meanwhile, will be decided at a ceremony at Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace on Friday night.
The event starts at 19:30 with the fixtures draw for the 2016/17 season also set to take place.
No matter the soap opera surrounding their coach, Al Ahli keep ticking along.
Friday night’s quarter-final against relegated Al Shaab – officially the worst-performing club of the professional era – proved more trying than expected. Yet the Arabian Gulf League champions characteristically managed to find a way through with a 3-1 win, maintaining their course towards a first top flight and President’s Cup double in 31 years.
Cosmin Olaroiu has declared the games about his future are on hold until his side’s run in the cup is over. It is hard to believe this won’t come after May 29’s showpiece, with the porous defence of grand entertainers Al Jazira likely to be their undoing against the UAE’s most efficient team next weekend.
Yesterday’s combatants were making acquaintances for the second time in five days. The Red Knights’ 5-0 triumph ended a glorious AGL campaign on a high before their coronation and ensured yo-yo club Shaab returned to First Division League with seven points, a record low.
A cheeky free-kick from lively Brazilian forward Ciel put Ahli ahead at Sharjah Stadium. A look up from out wide spotted goalkeeper Obaid Altawila off his line, an arched effort looping in at the far post when a cross had been expected.
Shaab heads did not drop and they were level shortly before the break. Forward Marcos De Santana got it, his header trickling in off South Korea star Kwon Kyung-won’s back.
Stephane Cusin’s revitalised side pegged their vaunted opponents back after the restart, the Brazilian, again, inches away from meeting a low cross to tee up an unforeseeable upset.
A touch of class was required to put Ahli ahead once more. 2015 AFC Asian Player of the Year Ahmed Khalil obliged, record-buy Moussa Sow heading in an 18th goal in 32 games from his partner’s perfect cross.
The continuation of the Red Knights’ relentless push for silverware was confirmed when Ciel controversially slotted home to make it 3-1 during injury time, Brazilian striker Ze Eduardo ending up in goal for Shaab as Obaid Altawila was dismissed for dissent as he remonstrated against a quick free-kick.