QNB Stars League champions Al Sadd stayed on course for a domestic double with a hard-fought 2-0 win over Al Rayyan in the first semi-final of the Amir Cup at the Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Stadium last night.

Al Sadd’s Ali Asad celebrates after scoring his team’s first goal against Al Rayyan yesterday

Ali Asad and Baghdad Bounedjah scored either side of the break to fulfil coach Jesualdo Ferreira’s wish of playing the final of Qatar’s richest tournament on May 16 at the brand new Al Wakrah Stadium, one of the eight venues of the FIFA World Cup in 2022, which will be inaugurated that day.
The 72-year-old Ferreira, who is serving out his last few weeks on his contract after taking charge of Al Sadd in 2015, was thrilled at the prospect his team will feature on the momentous occasion of the stadium’s inauguration.
“It was our hope we qualify for the final and play for the Amir Cup trophy at the Al Wakrah Stadium. Now we want to make history by winning the title,” the Portuguese tactician added.
Al Sadd clearly were the favourites to win the match yesterday, but Al Rayyan proved worthy opponents with a determined display, defending stoutly and creating a few scoring opportunities only to be let down by poor finishing.
But there was no doubting Al Sadd’s overall superiority, and when their forwards Akram Afif and Baghdad Bounedjah had the ball inside the Al Rayyan penalty area, they always looked dangerous.
After a few dramatic minutes which brought the best out of the Al Rayyan defence, Al Sadd broke the deadlock, thanks to one of Xavi’s signature defence-splitting passes.
The Spain and Barcelona legend found Akram Afif who then slipped in a pass to Asad, who scored effortlessly past the Al Rayyan goalkeeper Fahad Younis in the 12th minute.
Al Sadd could have consolidated a few minutes later when Bounedjah was brought down inside the box by Dami Terawari and the referee signalled to the spot. But much to Bounedjah’s disappointment, his shot was saved by Younis, diving to his right.
Bounedjah, however, had the last laugh late in the game after Al Sadd had missed plenty of scoring opportunities.
Picking up the ball near the centre after a clearance, he was allowed a free run with most of the Al Rayyan players parked at the other end of the field.
There was precious little Al Rayyan could do as Bounedjah completed his solo run by rounding off the last remaining defender and scoring past Younis in the 84th minute.
Al Rayyan’s last-gasp efforts yielded a few thrills but no goals as Sebastian Soria and Lucca Borges’ wasted chances.
Al Sadd will now await the winners of today’s second-semifinal between Al Duhail and Al Sailiya.
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