Mabkhout does the trick
Mohamed Jamal of Al Jazira vies for the ball with Al Ahli's Everton Ribeiro during their President's Cup semi-final match on Friday.
Dubai - Al Jazira edge past Al Ahli to move into President's Cup final
Al Ahli's bid for a fourth final on the bounce was snipped by Ali Ahmed Mabkhout, the ace Al Jazira frontman's incision leaving the Red Knights with deep wounds.
Mabkhout fired a superlative hat-trick, those goals worth its weight in gold as the Pride of Abu Dhabi marched into their third President's Cup final in six years.
The 3-2 result at the Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain on Friday night consigned Al Ahli to only their third defeat this entire season, but a costly one, so to speak. The Red Knights will have to wait another year for an unprecedented ninth President's Cup title, while Al Jazira will look to add to their back-to-back titles they had won in 2010-11 and 2011-12.
The Spiders await either six-time champions Al Ain or Bani Yas, who play on their home turf - the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium on Saturday night - in the final.
Al Jazira held all the aces with Ali Mabkhout causing a lot of headache to an Al Ahli defence which was missing the injured defensive midfielder Majed Hassan. His absence perhaps left them a tad light at the back as Ali Mabkhout continued to pick holes through the game.
Cosmin Olaroiu's men also surprisingly lacked the sharpness and the fluency they are know for, upfront and were a bit flat, so to say. The Al Ahli goalkeeper Majed Naser had a busy night under the bar, against a marauding Ali Mabkhout and his mates.
The game picked up pace after the first five minutes or so with end to end action but both couldn't breach the final third of the pitch.
But once Ali Mabkhout broke the stalemate on 15 minutes, slamming in the rebound after Naser managed to fend off an Angel Lafita freekick, Al Jazira began to call the shots.
Al Ahli had only one shot to show in the 20 minutes, a Ciel effort, nothing to write home about. Their first threatening foray came on 24 minutes as Ciel headed one to Khalil on the right but the latter's shot was pushed away by Al Jazira goalkeeper and captain Ali Khaseif.
Al Ahli managed to cancel out Mabkhout's strike through Moussa Sow, who scored from the spot after Sultan Al Suwaidi had stuck his boot into Ahmed Khalil.
But Mabkhout was to help Al Jazira nuge ahead again, the Emirati's powerful header from a Jong Woo Park giving Naser no chance at all. The top Emirati goalscorer in the Arabian Gulf League this season then went on to complete his hat-trick, slotting it past an advancing Naser, from a Park cross.
A few minutes prior to that, Ciel thought he had scored but he was found to be offside after Sow had put one in from the right.
Sow reduced the margin to keep things interesting heading into the final three minutes of normal time and six minutes of stoppage time. But Al Jazira held out for a deserved win.