By Sports Reporter/Doha
Estudiantes de la Plata beat Aspire Academy 4-2 in a penalty shootout to claim seventh place in the Al Kass 2016 rankings, following a rather sterile contest - lit up by a stunning individual goal from Aspire’s Khalid Mansour - that ended 1-1 in regulation time.
In the second match of the day, three goals in a ten-minute period put Kashiwa Reysol in charge of their fifth/sixth placement match against Al Ahli with the Japanese eventually winning 4-1.
(Left) Kashiwa Reysol’s Shunta Nakamura was adjudged MVP of the Match in the encounter against Al Ahli; (Right) Aspire Academy’s Khaled Mansour was given the award in the match against Estudiantes.
Forward Shunta Nakamura got the scoreboard ticking for the Japanese in the 29th minute, while captain Riku Tanaka double their lead seven minutes later. Ryosuke Asakura scored the third goal just two minutes later to leave their Saudi opponents reeling.
Moments from half-time, Ahli captain Hani Ismail Alsibyani made the most of a long free kick pulling one back for his team.
After going into the break on a high, Ahli started the second half with a renewed vigour trying to make inroads into the Reysol defence but came up with nought.
Takumi Onodera scored the only goal of the second half but that was enough to put the match beyond the reach for Ahli.
Aspire had started the tournament with a hugely impressive 6-1 thrashing of Shanghai Greenland, ensuring that they had already qualified for the knockout stage before suffering a 3-0 reverse to Inter Milan. However, the local side fell short in the quarter-finals against a highly accomplished Red Bull Salzburg, before going down 4-2 to Kashiwa Reysol.
The Argentines had suffered a narrow defeat in their opener against Celtic, and then eclipsed Red Bull 1-0 to seal a place in the knockout phase. However, Estudiantes then succumbed 2-0 to a tough Inter Milan side in the quarters, before coming off second best on penalties against Al Ahli.
The Argentines were operating with three centre backs and two wing-backs, and the deployment of an extra defender meant that close attention was continually paid to Aspire’s frontline, who found progress difficult. Equally, the formation allowed Estudiantes to commit extra numbers forward as required, and this strategy paid dividends on the half hour, when the Argentines broke the deadlock in unusual circumstances.
Franco Avila chased down a high pass through the inside right channel. As Aspire keeper Marwan El Din rushed from his goal to intercept, the ball struck the advancing midfielder on the back, and Ivan Erquiga quickly gathered and squared inside for Franco Rodriguez to fire home, with the keeper stranded.
On balance, Estudiantes were good value for their lead at this stage, but the complexion of the tie altered with five minutes of the half remaining, when Mansour notched one of the goals of the tournament.
Picking up the ball 10 yards inside the opposition half, he sprinted forward, evading two tough challenges before executing a superb chip from the right of the penalty area that nestled in the far corner.
The game then saw a few close chances but with neither side putting finishing touches to them, the game drifted towards the inevitable penalty shootout.
The first two spot kicks were scored before Aspire’s Ahmad Sebaie’s powerful effort cannoned back off the crossbar, handing Estudiantes an advantage that increased when Abdulaziz al-Hasia saw his poor effort saved. With the shootout score at 3-2 to Estudiantes, Pablo Corroto had the chance to win it for the Argentines. He did so with aplomb, executing an impish ‘Panenka’ kick to consign Aspire Academy to eight place.
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