Al Sadd stayed on course for their 18th Amir Cup title after an emphatic 3-0 win over Al Arabi put them in the final of the prestigious tournament’s 49th edition Sunday.
South Korean forward Nam Tae-hee opened the scoring for Al Sadd early in the match before Baghdad Bounedjah and Santi Cazorla struck on the other side of the break as QNB Stars League champions thoroughly dominated the “Dream Team” at the Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Stadium.
Al Sadd coach Xavi Hernandez reacts during the match
Al Arabi have won eight Amir Cup titles themselves but the last of their triumphs came in 1993 as other teams gained ground over them over the years.
On Sunday, they once came up short on the big stage, barely getting a decent crack at the Al Sadd goal as “The Wolves” literally had them chasing shadows.
Al Sadd had dominated the domestic league but their performance in the Asian Champions League left a lot to be desired as they crashed out in the group phase, dashing coach Xavi Hernandez’s dream of winning his first continental title as coach.
Still smarting from that failure, Al Sadd were determined to avoid another shock Sunday and they did it with some style at their home ground although spectators were barred from the match as part of the government’s measures against the coronavirus pandemic.
Al Sadd hit the ground running and almost scored twice within the first five minutes but Al Arabi goalkeeper Mahmoud Ibrahim foiled efforts from Santi Cazorla and Baghdad Bounedjah.
But Ibrahim could do precious little in the 10th minute when Yousef Abdurisag displayed some excellent skill on the right flank to cross for Nam who made no mistake from the centre of the box Ibrahim was instrumental in keeping Al Arabi’s margin of defeat down as he pulled off saves from Abdelkarim Hassan and Bounedjah to ensure the teams went to half-time with Al Sadd leading by a solitary goal.
But any hopes Al Arabi had of causing an upset began fading as Al Sadd continued with their domination after resumption.
After a few close calls, the Al Arabi goal fell again in the 58th minute when Bounedjah found himself in perfect position to score off an assist from Hassan al-Haydos in the 56th minute.
Al Arabi’s Youssef Msakni was hardly given any space to operate freely by the Al Sadd defence which left him thoroughly frustrated, even earning a yellow card.
They even introduced veteran Uruguayan Sebastian Soria late in the match but to no avail as Cazorla drilled a penalty in the 80th minute following a foul on Bounedjah to seal Al Sadd’s ticket to the final on May 14.
The second semi-final, between Al Rayyan and Al Duhail, will be played Monday.