AL SHORTA CROWNED SUPER CUP WINNERS AFTER THRILLING SHOOTOUT
Al Shorta made history by winning their first Iraqi Super Cup title following a thrilling 4-3 penalty shootout victory over rivals Al Zawraa at Al Kut Stadium.
The Iraqi Premier League champions dominated the game throughout, with Karrar Jassim seeing an early effort bounce just wide. Last season's top scorer Alaa Abdul-Zahra headed over the bar and later rounded the 'keeper but Al Shorta still could not find the net.
Al Zawraa took the lead against the run of play early in the second half with an excellent header by Iraq international striker Alaa Abbas, but it didn't change the dynamic of the game as the Harps continued to pile on the pressure. Saad Abdul-Amir saw a header from a trademark Karrar Jassim cross fly just past the post, but Al Shorta manager Aleksandar Ilić then made a substitution that changed the entire game.
Marwan Hussein was brought off and replaced by new Congolese striker Junior Mapuku, and within a couple of minutes, Mapuku received the ball from Karrar Jassim and brilliantly smashed it into the bottom corner to equalise in the final, with his celebration bringing back memories of Jean Michel N'Lend's famous salute against the Gulls back in 2013. Mapuku continued to be a threat and saw a stunning long range shot crash off the crossbar as Al Shorta continued to look for a winning goal.
Man of the match Karrar Jassim was so close to finding it minutes later when he brilliantly evaded two Al Zawraa defenders but his shot was tipped onto the post by 'keeper Fahad Talib. With just two minutes left on the clock, substitute Sherko Kareem then had a great chance to become the Police's hero but blazed his effort over the bar and the final went to a shootout.
Junior Mapuku, Dhurgham Ismail and Ali Faez perfectly converted Al Shorta's first three penalties but Al Zawraa responded with three of their own. Saad Abdul-Amir stepped up for the fourth but skied his effort and Al Shorta fans began to worry that for all their domination, they would be going home empty handed. However, 'keeper Mohammed Hameed had different ideas and dived to his left to save Mohammed Abdul-Zahra's penalty and keep the scores level. Captain Waleed Salem scored Al Shorta's fifth and Mohammed Ridha's penalty rolled wide to send Al Shorta's players and fans into pure ecstasy.
Al Shorta are the 2019 Iraqi Super Cup winners!
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