Al Sadd came back from a goal down to outplay Al Duhail 4-1 and reach their 26th Amir Cup final at the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium yesterday. It was sweet revenge for Al Sadd, who had lost to Al Duhail by a similar margin in the final of the prestigious championship last year.
That defeat was a bitter pill to swallow for Xavi Hernandez, who was playing his final game in an Al Sadd jersey in Qatar at the inauguration of Al Janoub Stadium. But since then Xavi in his capacity as coach has ensured that Al Sadd won all their four matches against Al Duhail.
In the final, Al Sadd take on Al Arabi, who beat Al Markhiya on Friday.
It was a game of two halves yesterday with Al Duhail dominating the first, only to be outplayed by Al Sadd in the second. Edmilson had put Al Duhail ahead in the 10th minute after an error from Al Sadd goalkeeper Meshaal Barshem.
Al Duhail, after a disciplined defensive show in the first half, completely lost the plot in the second. After Ramin Rezaeian’s goal was ruled out for handball, Boualem Khouki equalised for Al Sadd with a wonderful header in the 58th minute.
Guilherme Santos Torres doubled the advantage in the 64th minute, while substitute Baghdad Boundejah made it 3-0 in the 77th minute. Rodrigo Tabata then completed Al Duhail’s misery in the 88th minute with a strike from the half-line after goalkeeper Khalifa Abubakar was way off the goalpost.
“We feel very happy after this deserved victory,” said Xavi, who was involved in a heated exchange with Al Duhail coach Sabri Lamouchi on the touchline. “We were better than Duhail since the beginning of the match. We conceded an early goal, but we kept pressing ahead and enjoyed greater possession. We controlled the match throughout. I am delighted that we have beaten Duhail for the fourth time in a row,” the Al Sadd coach added
Lamouchi said Al Sadd were superior on the night. “We have a lot to work on and improve. Al Sadd were clearly the better team. They have better individual players and they were good physically too,” he said.
While Xavi was upbeat after the match, he was furious with his defensive line as they came under Al Duhail attack. The hosts could have had two goals inside eight minutes, with Rezaeian’s free-kick flying just wide off the post, while Sultan al-Brake’s shot hit the side netting.
Al Sadd’s tactic of playing from the back was fraught with danger and Meshaal’s wrong pass allowed Duhail an opening. The Sadd goalkeeper’s intended pass to Woo-young Jung was quickly intercepted by Mohamed Muntari, who then passed it on to Edmilson. The midfielder’s first shot was blocked by Meshaal but the rebound was quickly latched on to by Edmilson, who celebrated with a gesture towards the dugout after Lamouchi had left him out in the last couple of matches.
Al Sadd did manage to create a couple of chances, but Lamouchi had set up his defenders perfectly, which did not allow any space for Akram Afif.
Xavi introduced Bounedjah, who had recovered from an injury, in the 51st minute to replace Yousuf Abdurisag but it was the drama at the Al Duhail end which proved the turning point.
The hosts thought they had gone 2-0 up in the 54th minute when Rezaeian found the net after a pass from Edmilson. But the goal was overruled after a VAR review, which revealed that the ball had touched Edmilson’s hand from a rebound.
Al Sadd made the most of that lucky break. In the 58th minute, defender Khoukhi made it 1-1, rising highest to head home an Afif cross. Six minutes later, Afif took advantage of clumsy clearance from al-Brake, and passed to Torres who side-footed the ball beyond the onrushing Abubakar.
With the lead having slipped away, Lamouchi substituted Edmilson and Muntari – two of his potent attacking threats and that played into Al Sadd’s hand.
Bounedjah, playing as a lone striker upfront, netted Al Sadd’s third goal in the 77th minute, dribbling into the box and scoring with a low shot that went past two Al Duhail defenders and their keeper.
In the 88th minute, substitute Rodrigo Tabata made it 4-1 with a shot from near the halfway line, with Abubakar having advanced outside the penalty box. Duhail would end the game with nine men after Dudu and Ali Afif were sent off in stoppage time.
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