A CRUSHING 11-6 defeat of Wolves Mahra carried an experienced Abu Dhabi side into Friday’s final of the Emirates Open Polo Championship at the prestigious Ghantoot Racing and Polo Club in Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi won all its four league games and will now bid to defend a title they won last year. Their final opponents, however, were yet to be determined at the time of print and they could vie against either of Maserati, Wolves Mahra or Desert Palm in the showpiece encounter on Friday evening (5:15pm kick-off).
Officially presented by Maserati - Premier Motors, the 17th Emirates Open Polo Championship is being held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Falah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Chairman of Ghantoot Racing and Polo Club. The final round of qualifications was to be held late Tuesday and witnessed Maserati locking horns with Desert Palm and Wolves Mahra going up against a UAE side that is out of the tournament having lost all its previous games so far. Each of the potential finalists has amassed four points so far after securing two victories apiece. In the event of a UAE victory, the winner of the Maserati v Desert Palm game gains a direct place in the final against Abu Dhabi.
However, if Wolves Mahra win, they would have to contest a playoff against the winner of the other match, with the winner then progressing to the final. Led by Faris Al Yabhouni, Abu Dhabi have been on a roll. The 11-6 victory against Wolves Mahra came hot on the heels of their defeat of Maserati by a similar score and followed up on the confident 6-2 win over UAE in their second match. Defending champions Abu Dhabi had only just managed to edge Desert Palm 7-6 in their tournament opener. Speaking of the win over Wolves Mahra, Abu Dhabi’s Al Yabhouni said: “The plan was always to take it one step at a time and that’s what we’ve done.
“We managed to take control of the game in the very first chukka, with all players helping themselves to a goal, and I believe that’s what made the difference in the match. All we did after that was to keep the momentum going and to defend strongly. “We were just reinforcing the system that we created at the start of the tournament which was to take it one game at a time. I believe that approach has paid dividends and have been playing better and better with every match.” And the Abu Dhabi man is confident looking ahead to the final, adding: “I would like to think that we’ve reached our peak in perfect time for the final.
The aim has always been to come back to Ghantoot to defend the title we won last year, and I am confident, that we have the spirit to do it on Friday.” On the day Abu Dhabi beat Wolves Mahra, Desert Palm managed to keep its final hopes alive when it beat the UAE 9-8 in a keenly contested affair.
TOURNAMENT RESULTS SO FAR
Dec 17: Abu Dhabi 11 (Santiago Cernadas 5; Patricio Cieza 4; Santiago Gomez Romero 1; Faris Al Yabhouni 1) beat Wolves Mahra 6 (Diego Gallego 3; Tomas Iriarte 3); Desert Palm 9 (Matias Machado 4; Juan Jos Stroni 4; Maxi Malacalza 1) beat UAE 8 (Matias Benoit 4; Ignacio Acuna 3; Pablo Avalos 1).
Dec 15: Maserati 10 (Lucas Diego Alberi 4, Felipe Llorente 2, Abdullah Bin Dasmal 2, Gregorio Gelosi 1) beat Wolves Mahra 8 (Diego Gallego 6, Justo Coutinho 1, Tomas Iriarte 1); Abu Dhabi 6 (Santiago Cernadas 3, Patricio Cieza 2, Faris Al Yabhouni 1) beat UAE 2 (Ignacio Acuna 1, Pablo Avalos 1).
Dec 12: Wolves Mahra 8 (Diego Gallego 6; Tomas Iriarte 2) beat Desert Palm 7 (Matis Machado 5; Juan Jos Stroni 2); Abu Dhabi 11 (Santiago Cernadas 5; Patricio Cieza 3; Faris Al Yabhouni 2; Santiago Gomez Romero 1) beat Maserati 6 (Lucas Diaz Alberdi 2; Gregorio Gelosi 2; Felipe Alberdi 2)
Dec 10: Abu Dhabi 7 (Santiago Gomero 4; Patricio Cleza 1; Santiago Cemadas 1; Faris Al Yabhouni 1) beat Desert Palm 6 (Matias Machado 5; Juan Jos Stroni 1); Maserati 8 (Lucas Diaz Alberdi 4; Gregorio Gelosi 2; Abdullah Bin Dasmal 1; Felipe Llorente 1) beat UAE 3 (Ignacio Acuna 1; Matias Benoit 1; Rashid Bin Drai 1).