Abu Dhabi: Sharjah fans’ anxious wait was over as their side ended their 23-year Arabian Gulf League title drought after defeating a stubborn Al Wahda 3-2 in front of a packed house at the Khalid Bin Mohammad Stadium on Wednesday.
This was Sharjah’s sixth title in the history of the tournament. They had last won the coveted trophy way back in the 1995-96 season.
The title was all the more appreciable as it had come under a local coach in Abdul Aziz Al Anbari and their only loss in the entire tournament had come against Al Wasl in the round of 24.
The King were running away with the title at one stage but they stuttered a bit in the latter part of the season. Their 11-point advantage had reduced to a mere three, going into the penultimate game.
However, on Wednesday night playing in front of home fans, who had turned up in large numbers, Sharjah raised their game and also soaked up all the pressure towards the end to make sure that the title race didn’t go to the final match against Emirates.
The only way second-placed Shabab Al Ahli, who also won their outing against Bani Yas 4-1 on the night, could have caught up with Sharjah was if the latter would have failed to win at least one of their last two outings.
Sharjah sealed the title with a match in hand as they had a better head-to-head record, having won both their contests over two legs against Shabab Al Ahli.
The hosts were put into the driver’s seat by Igor Coronado before Leonardo de Souza levelled for Al Wahda. Welliton Morais then put Sharjah back in the lead immediately after the change of ends. Coronado completed the tally and his brace with a brilliant solo effort in the 57th minute. Wahda fought back to reduce the margin to 3-2 after their Argentine striker Sebastian Tagliabue got into the scoring act with a brilliant header in the 76th minute. The next 15 minutes, including injury time, was a test of nerve for Sharjah. But egged on by their vocal fans they held their defences. As soon as the referee blew the final whistle, there were wild celebrations in the stands as fireworks lit the skies.
Elsewhere, Al Ain after thrashing Al Wasl 5-1 at Hazza Bin Zayed stadium have leapfrogged to the third place. Jazira, who were looking to sealthird spot suffered a huge setback after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Al Dhafra at Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium.