• Two extra-time goals give Algeria the crown in front of 60,456 fans at Al Bayt Stadium
Amir Sayoud’s stunning strike in the first half of the extra time led Algeria to their maiden Arab Cup title after a pulsating final against Tunisia Saturday.
The magnificent Al Bayt Stadium was a perfect backdrop for the North African derby, with 60,456 crowd attendance creating a terrific atmosphere as both teams went full tilt for the title.
In the end, it was Algeria who showed more mental resolve as Tunisians faded after a bright start. After it ended goalless in regulation time, substitute Sayoud silenced the majority Tunisian support with a sublime strike in the ninth minute of the extra time.
The 30-year-old midfielder picked up a clever back-heel pass from Baghdad Bounedjah, made two touches before firing it into the left top corner. With all the Tunisia players camped in Algerian half in search for an equaliser, Yacine Brahimi had all the time in the world to score one minute before the final whistle to send his teammates into frenzy.
Tunisia players with their silver medals
“I present this victory to the Algerian people,” said Sayoud. “I missed other scoring chances but I finally managed to find the net to give the victory to my team,” he added.
Algeria, who won the Africa Cup of Nations title in 2019, — their first since 1990 — have achieved a rare feat of being the Arab Cup champions too. Tunisia were aiming for their second Arab title, after having won the inaugural edition in 1963, but The Eagles of Carthage ran out of energy as final progressed. Algeria received a whopping $5mn for becoming champions, while runner-up Tunisians took home $3 million.
“I am proud of my players’ achievement,” Algeria coach Bougherra said.
“I said before the tournament if you want to claim the title you have to beat the topflight teams,” he added.
Golden ball winner Algeria’s Yacine Brahimi (centre), silver ball winner Algeria’s Mohamed Belaili and bronze ball winner Qatar’s Akram Afif (left) pose on the podium.
Throughout the tournament, Algeria have shown a knack of delivering at key moments and that was once again pivotal to their title triumph Saturday. The Desert Warriors had won their quarter-final against Morocco in penalties before inflicting a heartbreaking defeat on hosts Qatar with a goal in the 17th minute of stoppage time.
Against Tunisia, their never-give-up attitude and determination helped them lay hands on the Arab Cup title. Madjid Bougherra’s men took a little time to get going yesterday.
The crowd at Al Bayt Stadium were predominantly Tunisian and that may have played on their minds as they were subjected to a barrage of attacks from their rivals.
The Fennecs, though, were right in the contest after absorbing the initial Tunisian pressure. But their hearts were in the mouth as Tunisia’s young midfielder Hanibal Mejbri went down theatrically after a being clipped by Ilyes Cheti in the 11th minute. A VAR check, though, ruled out a penalty, but three minutes later, Tunisia went closer after Bilel Ifa’s header off a free kick came off the crossbar. It was one-way traffic for Tunisia, till Algeria carved out a chance in the 21st minute,
Tayeb Meziani was wide open in front of goal from less than six yards, but inexplicably failed to hit the target. Bougherra made a tactical change to thwart Tunisian dominance, with Meziani moving to the left wing, while Youcef Belaili switched to the right.
But Tunisia still found the opening, as Naim Siliti’s striker was tipped just over the bar by Les Vert’s captain Rais M’Bolhi.
The engaging opening 20 minutes turned into more of an ugly affair, with constant bickering by both set of players and fouls leading to break in plays as German referee Daniel Siebert dished out yellow cards like freebies.
Al Said star Bounedjah was in the thick of the action in the first half. Just before picking up a card, the striker played in a perfect cross for Meziani who sprayed his shot wide and to the relief of Algeria the offside flag was up.
With half-time approaching, it all went a bit awry on the field as Tunisia’s Yusef Msakni and Seifeddine Jaziri were shown yellow cards along with Bounedjah for getting into fracas.
Algeria came out more confident in the second half and it was them who were looking for a penalty after a headwall on Tunisian defender Ghaylène Chaalali. But after a quick VAR check, the ball was rightly ruled out to have hit Chaalali’s shoulder.
Bougherra’s men controlled the play with domination as the Tunisians dropped in intensity, while they also missed the services of defender Yassine Meriah. There was another penalty call — this time from Tunisia after Mohamed Drager was brought down the box.
Tunisians, who were looking to score on the counter, could have put the game to bed with extra time approaching. But tournament’s top-scorer Seifeddine Jaziri missed the net by inches as the intriguing clash went to extra time.
The fresh legs of substitutes always play a key role in extra time and Sayoud proved it for Algeria in the 99th minute with a sublime strike. Desperate to take the game into penalties, Tunisia went all out but could not find the killer punch after a series of relentless attacks.
The Tunisians had one final chance in the last minute of extra time, but once the corner was cleared by Algeria’s deep block, Brahimi sprinted to tap into open goal. Brahimi, who collected the Golden Ball award later, wheeled away in celebration and was mobbed by jubilant teammates with the referee’s final whistle lost in all the celebratory noise.
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