UAE's Al-Ain topple South American giants River Plate

UAE's Al-Ain topple South American giants River Plate
UAE side Al-Ain have achieved something remarkable by knocking South America giants River Plate, reports Uri Levy.
3 min read
19 Dec, 2018
The UAE side are through to the finals [Getty]

In football there are moments when fantasy become reality. That is exactly what happene on Tuesday night when Al-Ain knocked Argentina's mega-club River Plate - South American champions - out of the Club World Cup semi-final.

In a terrific fight, the Ainawys stood impressively against a side if much greater quality. 

Almost 22,000 fans packed the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al-Ain, excited at the - slight - chance of a sensation by their team, and the character and abilities shown by their players so far in the tournament.

It started with Marcus Berg heading in a corner from Ahmad Barman to stun the Argentineans, who only ten days ago won the Copa Libertadores - in a controversial event in Madrid - after beating arch-rivals Boca Juniors 3-1 at the Santiago Bernabéu.

River Plate appeared to be intimidated by Al-Ain. Yet, 13 minutes after the locals' goal, the Argentineans were ahead by one goal, 2-1, after a brace by the Colombian Rafael Borre.

Just when the game seemed to go to River's direction, Al-Ain decried to open their "backfires".

In their third match in six days, Al-Ain's players have found the energy and strength to go all-out on counter-attacks, tackle hard and fight for their spot in the final.

In the 51st minute, Brazilian Caio scored after a great chance was created by the Japanese Tsukasa Shiotani and made the scoreboard all level at 2-2.

In the 69th minute, Pity Martinez missed a penalty for River Plate, and already then, something in the fresh air of the Gulf desert winter hinted that a sensation was coming.

Everybody waited for Al-Ain to fall and for River to bite, but it didn't happen. Goalkeeper Khalid Eissa had a tremendous day, and despite playing 120 minutes and taking part in a penalty shoot-out two days ago, the Ainawys contested River's players again and again.

The game went to extra-time and Al-Ain's players looked tired but ambitious. It paid off. River Plate couldn't push up their game it went to penalties - already an achievement for the Emiratis.

In their first year without Omar "Amoory" Abdulrahman, who left to Saudi Arabia's Al-Hilal on loan, Al-Ain took all their guts and character to this dual - and won.

The Emiratis scored all five of their penalty kicks, as Enzo Perez, an Argentine international, went up against the new hero of the UAE, goalkeeper Kahlid Eissa, who managed to stop his shot. This was the end of the game - Al-Ain won on penalties 5-4 and will play the winner of a game between Kashima Antlers from Japan - the champions of Asia - and Real Madrid, their European counterparts.

Al-Ain have dazzled the world in this tournament, and now they want to fulfil their dream: to win the Club World Cup at home, or just put in the same effort they did against River Plate - against Real Madrid.


Uri Levy runs the popular football blog BabaGol, which covers football and politics focusing on the Middle East. Follow him on Twitter, and read his blog here.