This trip comprised the AFC Champions League final 1st leg in Dubai plus a second level UAE match.
I flew BA from Gatwick to Dubai, arriving fairly late at my hotel in Deira at around ‘zero dark thirty’.
Just the one glass of wine helped the sleep process plus some of Spurs v Anderlecht.
The next day I checked out the Al Ahli stadium before, eventually, persuading a taxi driver (the first two said ‘too far’) to take me out to the Dubai Sports Club along the Al Awir road.
6th November Dubai SC 2 Al Khaleej 1 UAE Federations Cup c. 200
Not surprisingly this was a low-key second level encounter before a small crowd in a stadium, outside of the centre, capable of holding around 7,000+.
Though it wasn’t very convincing Dubai went joint top with the victory.
They went ahead on 6 minutes from a decent right foot effort.
Then the visitors had more play although they lacked a decisive finish.
The half ended with the home side in front.
But when the away coach brought on another striker (no.9), soon after the break, he was there to convert a left wing cross for an easy leveller.
It seemed Al Khaleej would go on to win but a controversial penalty was awarded for a foul and the big Dubai striker walloped in the winner with about 18 minutes remaining.
I managed to get a lift back to the Deira and stayed local for a (vegetarian) Indian meal.
Even in Dubai.
7th November Al Ahli 0 Guangzhou Evergrande 0 AFC Champions League final 9,480 (c. 900 away)
In attending this match I felt somewhat privileged as I was completing a ‘set’ of 2015 Champions League final matches - CONCACAF (America v Montreal), UEFA (Barcelona v Juventus), CONMEBOL Copa Libertadores (Tigres UANL v River Plate), CAF (USM Alger v TP Mazembe) and this AFC final.
Plus the Europa League final (Sevilla v Dnipro) & the UEFA Super Cup (Barcelona v Sevilla)
I realise there is also the OFC version but, for me, that is somewhat below the radar.
However this final ended a little flat not only because of the goalless stalemate but also it lacked the intensity of (for example) the CAF final in Algiers.
But on the other hand it was much better organised even though there were, apparently numbers of Chinese fans outside the stadium unable to gain entry.
Those that were inside, mostly local workers, were positioned in a section to the right of the main stand - all in red, of course.
The local fans setup some choreo along one side and gave decent encouragement to their team, making its debut in the final.
Guangzhou had triumphed before, in 2013, and they will be favoured to do so again and add to Phil Scolari’s CV.
The first half certainly went the way of the Chinese team with Zheng Zhi and Paulinho (ex-Spurs) going close.
Just one effort from the home side - but Al Hammadi did test Zeng in the away goal.
The second period had more action with an early effort from Huang Bowen striking the post.
After which Al Ahli developed some rhythm and pressure.
The disappointment was the general lack of influence of the Brazilian contingent, from both sides.
That was Lima and Everton Ribeiro for Al Ahli and Goulart and Elkeson for the Chinese team.
Maybe if there had been some more free kicks in dangerous positions then they might have well have displayed their skills.
Nearer the end sub. Yu again tested Ahmed in the home goal before the final significant action - a red card for Haikal for a senseless slap aimed at Gao.
All may not be lost though for the ‘Red Knights’, coached by the impressive Romanian Cosmin Olaroiu, who though undoubtedly second favourites could rise to the occasion in the second leg in China.
I went back to my hotel via the metro and enjoyed some red wine while watching Chelsea