Teams from Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah came together for a thrilling knockout stage of #NSL360 matches.
The Emirates Islamic National School League Football semi finals and finals take place on Saturday 6th February at The Sevens in Dubai – visit nsl360.com for more information.
Their 4-3 victory against New Indian Model School Al Ain had it all: goals, comebacks, drama, joy and heartbreak.
DPS fought back commendably from going 2-0 down in the first half to triumph, with four goals coming in a manic final five minutes.
DPS brought it back to 2-2 and must have thought the comeback was complete when Arjun Khurana netted to make it 3-2. NIMS had other ideas though and equalised to surely send the game to extra-time. Barely 30 seconds later, however, a speculative punt up field was spilled into his own net by goalkeeper Nishad Koderi, and DPS held on for victory.
“It was a really good game,” man-of-the-match Sidhant Nayar, 16, said. “We were 2-0 down at half time and in the end we won.
“To come back like that was unimaginable. It shows that we will never give up and keep fighting
until the last whistle.”
Defeat was extremely harsh on NIMS, whose players lay strewn on the field at the final whistle, their energy sapped. They had travelled to Dubai with just seven players, four unable to play due to exams and their coach Ameer Ali moderating. “We’re really disappointed about the result,” said striker Osama Baloushi.
“We only had seven players because four had exams and the coach was moderating. There was no way of getting around it but we still should have won, we were 2-0 up and it’s really disappointing to lose.”
Al Yasmina School progressed 2-1 following a titanic tussle with DPS Sharjah. A fiery game was more notable for a flurry of yellow cards and several off the ball incidents, although Yasmina coach Adam Hodson said it showed how seriously both teams were taking the NSL. “You can see what it means to them with the celebrations at the end,” said Hodson. “It was a feisty game but that shows how much it meant to both teams. The boys have not stopped talking about it since they came back to school. They were really up for it.”
Man-of-the-match Ahmed Al Hosani added: “We want to win this tournament, we are desperate to do so and didn’t come all the way from Abu Dhabi not to win.”
In the other two games, tournament favourites LFI sauntered to a 6-1 win against Alkamal American School while Indian High School completed the last four line-up with a 2-0 triumph over Salman Farsi School.
Penalty shootout and golden goal drama ruled the Under-14’s section, with Lycée Français International Georges Pompidou, Abu Dhabi Indian School and Al Salaf Al Saleh Private School all progressing to the semi-finals in dramatic fashion.
It was rather more straightforward for The Millennium School Dubai who also advanced to the last four courtesy of a 4-1 win against Brilliant International Private School.
LFI string-puller Sacha Ziani gained man-of-the-match honours during LFI’s enthralling 3-3 draw with New Academy School, although head coach Fiederic Deswarte was full of praise for his “crazy” goalkeeper, Hedi Hbaleb, who was instrumental with two saves as LFI progressed 2-0 via a penalty shootout.
“We have three goalkeepers for the competition and Hedi is a really good keeper, he has the mentality to be a goalkeeper,” said Deswarte.
“He’s a little bit apart and has no fear at all. He’s a little bit crazy, in a good way. That’s sometimes what goalkeepers need. They are a little bit different. He showed one taker a corner and he saved it. I was confident in him beforehand.”
LFI qualified from the group stages with a perfect nine wins from nine, netting 38 goals and conceding just four, and Deswarte thinks their first real challenge will stand them in good stead for next week’s semi-final clash with TMS.
“It was the first time for us that it was hard to win,” he said.
“I told them (the players) all the teams in the knockout stages are going for the final and victory is never easy. It was a shock today, but you never get something like a trophy easily and I think it’s good for them to receive a lesson like this. It will be good for them.”
Man of the moment, Hbaleb, 13, added: “It’s a really important win because it was a difficult game. We didn’t expect the opponents to be as good as they were. They might not be as good as us but they were passionate and worked so hard.”
ADIS match-winner Zayed Palat paid tribute to his father, who inspired his superb free-kick from the halfway line that saw his team reach the last four via a golden goal in extra time in a tense encounter with Salman Farsi School.
Both teams had reached the quarter-finals playing attacking, eye-catching football, but they cancelled each other out in a scrappy game.
“I was going to cross it but dad told me to shoot so I did. I waited and then it went in and my heart started jumping,” said the 13-year-old.
“The group stages were fairly easy but it was a real test today. We expected a real fight and we got that. The fact we went through a hard game will help us in the semi-finals. It will give us confidence and hopefully we play better. We want to go all the way and lift that cup.”
Sharjah’s Al Salaf also needed more than 40 minutes to see of Al Yasmina School in a penalty shootout, having equalised with 30 seconds to go of normal time through Ahmad Adrous’ strike.
Jimmy Alley had scored both goals for Yasmina, one a thunderous penalty and the other a free-kick from halfway, while he also scored in the shootout, but goalkeeper Abdulmalik Saeed crucially saved Toby Bereten’s spot kick as Al Salaf advanced 3-2.
Shane Abraham was TMS’ hero as his hat-trick helped see off Brilliant International.
“I just want to thank my school and my team-mates. Even though I scored a hat-trick it’s all about the team. They supplied the chances for me to score,” said the 11-year-old.
“We are one game from the final now and I think we can make it. We want to go all the way.”
Coach Afsal Ibrahim said he was proud of his boys, who remain unbeaten in the competition.
“I talked before the quarter-finals of wanting to stay unbeaten and a 4-1 win is a good way to start the knockout stages,” he said.
“Full credit must also go to our principal too, Michael Guzder and our school management who are giving the whole freedom to the players. The whole school is behind the team.
“As a coach I have my own limitations and Dubai is a very busy city, so everyone deserves huge credit.”