Al Wahda confirmed their place as the fourth and last Arabian Gulf Cup semi-finalists in style after thrashing rivals Al Ain 5-1 at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi to take the aggregate score to 7-2.
For Al Wahda Mourad Batna opened the scoring on eight minutes with Tareq Ahmed adding another in the first half.
Sebastian Tagliabue, Mohamed Alshehhi and Mohamed Alkaberi added second half strikes while Ahmed kalil scored for Al Ain.
Al Wasl joined Al Wahda in the last four with a 1-0 victory over Al Nasr with Caio Canedo’s goal proving the difference over two-legs.
Shabab Al Ahli Dubai renewed their superiority over Hatta in their second leg with a 2-0 win at Rashid Stadium to add to their substantial 3-0 advantage from the first leg, completing a 5-1 aggregate win against the Hurricane to become this season’s first semi-finalists.
As expected, the first leg result overshadowed the game performance, and the scoresheet remained blank for the first 45 minutes, with some shy attempts from Shabab Al Ahli, who dominated the first half but without any serious threats.
After his latest injury, Makhete Diop returned to the scoresheet putting his team in front, when he diverted Ante Erceg’s pass into the net ten minutes after the break.
Hatta’s response was instant as Ahmed Khameis’ cheeky lob deceived goalkeeper Majed Naser to even the score in the 52nd minute.
Erecg doubled the score for his side ten minutes before the final whistle to add to his side’s lead from the first leg and confirm their semi-final berth.
In the other quarter-final AGL champions Al Jazira failed to overturn a 3-1 deficit to Dibba Al Fujairah, going down 1-0.
Yassen Mahmoud rounded Ali Khaseif after just seven minutes to score the only goal.
Optimistic boss Mahdi Ali is convinced Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club’s trying inaugural season can still reap a first piece of silverware.
May’s merger has been anything but a runaway success. A draining run of draws saw coach Cosmin Olaroiu get sacked in December, with replacement Ali not faring much better.
A shot at redemption comes on Thursday night in the Arabian Gulf Cup quarter-final decider against struggling Hatta.
“Our ambition is to compete for the remaining two titles, and we have great hope of winning one of them,” said Ali, whose charges hold a commanding 3-0 advantage.
“The team has many imperfections and there is the possibility of giving some players a chance.”
Dibba Al Fujairah possess a 3-1 lead against an Al Jazira side riding high after Monday’s winning start against Qatar’s Al Gharafa in the 2018 AFC Champions League.
This is a factor which worries Fishermen coach Paulo Comelli.
He said: “Al Jazira is a big team.
“After winning in Asia, they will also be full of confidence.”
A Bur Dubai-derby kicks-off Friday’s final clashes. December’s opener at Al Wasl’s Zabeel Stadium ended in a 2-2 draw, but it’s been all change for Al Nasr since.
Ex-Italy tactician Cesare Prandelli was sacked in January, a decision to rehire Serbian Ivan Jovanovic seeing a perfect three wins recorded from three matches.
“The morale of the players is high,” said Lebanon centre-back Joan Oumari. “In the dressing room, we all agreed to fight.”
Al Wahda beat Al Ain 2-1 in the opener, but both now possess different distractions.
The Boss are gunning for domestic and continental glory, while Wahda are likely to continue concentrating on the top flight – a weakened side went down 5-0 at Lokomotiv Tashkent in the ACL.
Brazilian forward Fabio De Lima’s sensational curled strike in the 26th minute saw the Cheetahs look poised to celebrate an enlivening victory against Qatar’s Al Sadd upon the end of their 10-year wait to play in Asia’s elite club competition. But the introduction of Baghdad Bounedjah off the substitute’s bench turned the Group C opener around, the Algeria centre forward decisively completing his brace on the stroke of second-half injury-time.
This reversal saw the devastated Cheetahs exit Zabeel Stadium with tails between their legs.
For ex-Argentina left-back Arruabarrena, his troops must instantly snap out of this slump with the next 10 days witnessing Friday’s decider against Bur Dubai rivals Al Nasr for a spot in the Arabian Gulf Cup’s semi-finals, Tuesday’s second continental date at Uzbekistan’s Nasaf and next weekend’s resumption of their Arabian Gulf League title push at lowly Dibba Al Fujairah.
He said: “When we fall, we have to stand back up again.
“After the League Cup we play in the Champions League again, and then the Arabian Gulf League continues, but like I said, we will learn because for almost all of us, this was our first time playing here [ACL].”
A lack of experience was a major concern for the ex-Boca Juniors player and tactician. Sadd are two-time Asian kings, boast Spain icon Xavi in their ranks and hot prospects such as Akram Afif have been plying their trade in Europe.
“We made a good first half but in the second we lost possession, made two mistakes and lost the game,” said Arruabarrena.
“From the beginning we said they were more experienced than us and had different players.
“For almost all our players this is the first time they have played in this competition, but they will learn from playing the best teams in Asia. We do not have too many players, but this is not the moment to speak.”
Wasl will need to avoid defeat at Nasaf’s Qarshi Markazi Stadium to boost hopes of avoiding a repeat of 2008’s group-stage elimination.