Blue Wave rolls on to President’s Cup final

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Blue Wave rolls on to President’s Cup final

Nasr squeeze past Shabab after Shambieh’s saves in semi-final shootout

By Alex Leach (senior Reporter)

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Published: Sun 31 May 2015, 2:02 PM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 11:00 PM

Al Shabab's Luvannor Silva goes for the ball against Al Nasr's Ahmed Alyassi during Al Shabab and Al Nasr's Semi Final Game of the Presidents Cup at Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai.- Photo Dhes Handumon/ Khaleej Times

Al Shabab's Luvannor Silva goes for the ball against Al Nasr's Ahmed Alyassi during Al Shabab and Al Nasr's Semi Final Game of the Presidents Cup at Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai.- Photo Dhes Handumon/ Khaleej Times 

Dubai: Al Nasr won through to the President’s Cup final with a dramatic 4-2 penalty shootout victory over Al Shabab in this semi-final showdown in Dubai at Al Maktoum Stadium.

These two Dubai-based clubs couldn’t be separated in two hours following a 1-1 draw, so this last-four clash was determined by spot-kicks from 12 yards late on Saturday night.

Al Nasr 1
(Goals: Brett Holman 47)
Al Shabab 1
(Goals: Naser Masood 72)
(AET, Al Nasr won 4-2 on penalties)

Nasr goalkeeper Ahmed Shambieh proved the hero in the dead-ball duel by saving tame strikes from Edgar Bruno Da Silva and Hassan Ibrahim.

Ivan Jovanovic’s men scored all four of their penalties through Pablo Hernandez, Renan Garcia, Ibrahima Toure and Tariq Ahmed to set a final showdown against Al Ahli on Wednesday evening.

The first chance of note came after 13 minutes. Ahmed fed Brett Holman on the edge of the Shabab penalty area and the Australian attacker turned sharply to get away a left-footed attempt that Salem Abdulla dealt with agilely.

Another left-footed effort sailed towards Abdulla in the Shabab goal moments later, but the Hawks shot-stopper wasn’t called into action this time as a Garcia free-kick flew narrowly over the crossbar.

Shabab hit back at the other end with an initial opportunity midway through the first half. Henrique Luvannor surged down the right flank and centred for Da Silva, who just couldn’t divert the cross on target at the near post.

That slight opening seemed to spur on Shabab’s attacking endeavours and Da Silva saw a header from a partially-cleared Carlos Villanueva corner cleared off the goal-line by Ahmed.

Azizbek Haydarov also tried his luck from distance with a long-range drive that Shambieh parried away before collecting at the second attempt as the visitors reached half time very much in the ascendency.

Shabab’s supremacy didn’t last long though after the resumption of play as Nasr hit the front two minutes into the second period.

Holman played a neat give-and-go with Toure and the Senegalese striker’s precise return pass allowed his team-mate to bear down on Abdulla and slot away a curling, low finish.

Holman’s strike brought the home crowd to their feet and the Nasr faithful joyously sang his name as those in blue celebrated and congratulated each other out on the pitch.

It certainly was a timely reminder of the capabilities of the former Aston Villa and AZ Alkmaar player, who is out of contract this summer and looking to extend his stay with the Blue Wave beyond the end of this current season. By the sounds of it, Nasr’s supporters would like to see Holman still wearing the club’s colours in the 2015/2016 campaign.

This match then descended increasingly into a scrappy affair, with plenty of niggly tackles on show as some rather frayed tempers flared up between the two sides.

That simmering situation remained the same too until 18 minutes from time, when Caio Junior’s team conjured up a rather fortuitous equaliser.

With Nasr failing to clear their defensive lines, the ball broke free for second-half substitute Naser Masood on the edge of the 18-yard box. His placed shot took two wicked deflections on its way through, with the final one off Garcia’s arm seeing the ball trickle agonisingly beyond an already wrong-footed Shambieh.

Both XIs pressed for that elusive winner in the remainder of normal and extra time thereafter, with Nasr perhaps looking the more likely in the additional 30 minutes; Toure and sub Fahad Hadeed both coming close to registering in the early exchanges of extra time.

Hernandez also rattled the bar late on, but there simply wasn’t to be a decisive strike to settle proceedings as this tight semi-final ultimately went down to a dreaded penalty shootout.

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