If you know a thing or two about Dubai, you would probably marvel at the Burj Khalifa: that magnificent 828 meters tall structure of steel covered with glass. Formally named as Burj Dubai, Burj Khalifa which hosts the esteemed Armani hotel, could hold up to 57,000 people at a given time, had won prestigious architectural and design awards, and cost an estimated $1.5 Billion.
The goal was well defined: Construct an iconic structure to reflect the culture and eventually signify the important future role of Dubai at the global stage.
Eight kilometers away two clubs with the best supporters in the UAE Pro League played against each other to signify somewhat of a similar status, but from a football’s perspective. This was a battle to find out which of the two is the top dog in Dubai. Like any other derby, this bout was expected to bring about the best of characters out of the two teams. It was also the battle between the top two scorers in the league: Al Ahli’s Brazilian striker Grafite versus Al Wasl’s Uruguayan forward, Emiliano Alfaro.
“Waslawi’s” were the more dominant side in the first half, as their opponents lacked creativity to open up their defense. The foreign Waslawi’s including Argentinean Mariano Donda, Emiliano Alfaro and Egyptian Shikabala displayed a great level of understanding between themselves in terms of one-two’s and movement around the ball. That understanding led to the first goal, which basically involved the three expats. Egyptian cross – Uruguayan touch – Argentinean strike.
The visiting team was stronger in the second half. The introduction of Ismael Al Hamadi (46th min) and Ahmed Khalil (73rd min) by manager Qique Sanchez gave Luis Jimenez and Grafite more freedom to do what they do best: Break defenses. Grafite’s 53rd minute goal was an example of just that as it was Jimenez’s cross from the right, which was horrifyingly misread by keeper Ahmed Mahmoud. The host’s French manager, Bruno Metsu must have wished that the club had maintained their keeper with the 17-match-ban who was transferred to the very team they were playing against tonight – Majed Nasser. Eventually, the game ended in a 2 – 2 draw, which was expected due to similarities in their style of play, their passing and their ability to go past the last line of defense.
As mentioned before, the league is notorious for play-acting. The second for Al Wasl came in such a fashion as Alfaro was able to leap across the Lebanese Yusuf Mohammed’s less than harmful charging foot in the box, a move the referee called in the favor of the Uruguayan. Hence, it was frustrating to see players make a big deal off of a small knick, which stopped the run of play many times. But the patience as a spectator of the league is something that needs to be worked on by the spectator themselves.
On the positive end, it was incredible to see the crowd come out in full force representing both teams. It was also pleasing to see an Al Ahli legend who scored 82 goals in 126 appearances in his 8-year tenure feature for his new club – Al Wasl. Faisal Khalil was and will always be appreciated for what he had done for the club. Lastly, both strikers, Grafite and Alfaro who are currently on fire in the Etisalat Pro League, have 6 goals each in their tally with 3 games into the season.
Here are a few pictures from the game taken by our very own Abdul Rehman Khilji.