Al Wasl quest to tame Al Wahda striker Sebastian Tagliabue and other Arabian Gulf Cup final talking points

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Sebastian Tagliabue (c) in action against Al Wasl (PLC).

The UAE’s first major piece of domestic silverware will be decided on Thursday night when Al Wahda face Al Wasl in the Arabian Gulf Cup final.

At the hastily rearranged venue of Al Ain’s Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, the Clarets will be looking to make it three-successive seasons with a trophy. Their opponents are enduring both an eight-year drought and an alarming collapse in form.


The Arabian Gulf League’s premier gunslinger is showing no signs he’s about to run out of ammunition.

Wahda striker Sebastian Tagliabue has scored an incredible nine goals in his last four matches, including six of his side’s eight goals during the semi-final slaying of Dibba Al Fujairah. This form has ensured an extension to the 33-year-old’s rapidly expiring contract will be imminently sealed.

Of more immediate concern, the Argentine with 103 AGL goals since 2013 will be smelling blood.

Wasl have kept two clean sheets in their last 19 fixtures, plus will definitely be missing UAE call-up Abdulrahman Ali and potentially skipper Waheed Ismail at centre-back. After already scoring four past them in three meetings this term, target practice awaits.


Even though there has been a crushing inevitability to Wasl’s decline, the rate of descent is still alarming.

From being right in the mix with – now champions-elect – Al Ain and Wahda in the battle for AGL glory by late January, they’ve since gone on to win just two of their last 12 fixtures in all competitions.

The Cheetahs must be applauded for their prudence in the transfer market. But a failure to add ballast in the last three windows is being felt now, as injuries and bans wrack up.

The time has come for coach Rodolfo Arruabarrena to work out how to make the most of what he’s got.


The psychology of this match is intriguing.

Wasl haven’t tasted domestic success since their AGL and President’s Cup double of 2006/07. Their last title of any note was 2010’s GCC Champions League.

Triumphs in the 2015/16 AG Cup and 2016/17 President’s Cup created a sense that Wahda were adroitly building towards AGL glory this term. These dreams died with a 6-2 thrashing at the Hazza earlier this month.

Wasl are an inferior outfit, the brilliance of Brazilian forward Fabio De Lima aside.

But victory this week would resonate deep within. Can this desire tip the balance?

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