(MENAFN - Gulf Times) Hot on the heels of Qatar's AFC Asian Cup success, Aspire Academy raised hopes of another triumph for the nation when they reached the semi-finals of the Al Kass International Cup.
A hard-fought 1-0 win over Turkish side Altinordu set up a last-four clash with either Roma or Spartak Moscow.
Aspire went close on seven minutes when Fahad al-Abdulla sent his shot narrowly wide on but it was only a temporary reprieve for Altinordu as Khaled bin Sabaa sent a fine curling shot into the net two minutes later. Receiving the ball from Abdulrahman al-Abdulrahman, he gave Emirhan Emir no chance with a finely executed finish and it turned out to be the only goal of the game.
Altinordu's best chance of the first half came in the 35th minute when Yigit Celtik sent in a free-kick from the right and Tunahan Ozturk's neat backheel went narrowly wide.
The Turks were badly missing someone who could put the ball in the net as Enis Destan, who had scored both of their goals during the group stages, was unavailable.
Five minutes before the break, Kadira went close to doubling the advantage when his effort was saved by Emir but then hit the Aspire midfielder and looped over the keeper but Rahmi Kaya tracked back to clear.
The hosts finished the half strongly and al-Abdulla forced a fine save from the keeper.
Aspire also started the second half well and Mekki Tombari saw his 48th minute effort deflected wide after good work from al-Abdulrahman.
Tatli then sent a powerful effort wide as Altinordu pushed for an equaliser, but Aspire remained well organised and allowed the Turks very few clear chances.
Aspire tried to make sure of victory and Osamah Altairi found Bin Sabaa who beat one player before forcing a fine save.
Rangers brush aside
Rangers progressed to the semi-finals of Al Kass 2019 with a dominant 7-0 victory over Tunisia's Ecoile Sportive du Sahel, who were simply blown away in windy conditions.
The Glasgow side adopted a positive approach from the first whistle, with Kai Kennedy going close early on, firing a low shot from the edge of the area that keeper Ahmed Slimen only just got his hand to.
Both Kennedy and Nathan Young-Coombes were looking lively, and when Ahmed Guermiti hacked the latter down with a cynical challenge that somehow avoided a yellow, it was clear that the ESS backline was struggling to cope. Rangers were certainly not intimidated by the physical challenge, and right back Harris O'Connor was the first to go into the referee's book for a similar late tackle.
The ESS defenders were simply unable to cope with the attacking threat of Young-Coombes, who finally broke the deadlock on 38 minutes, turning on the edge of the area to power home a first-time shot that gave Slimen no chance.
With 45 minutes played, Tunisian coach made the highly unorthodox decision to make two substitutions. The new additions spent a matter of seconds on the field of play before the referee blew for half time, and their impact on the second half was minimal.
Normal service was resumed straight after the restart. Kennedy battled through a series of challenges to supply Young-Coombes 20 yards out, and the effervescent forward lifted the ball over Slimen to double his tally.
A minute later, Rangers put the result beyond doubt when Ciaran Dickson supplied Arron Lyall, who took a touch before firing into the bottom left corner to make it 3-0.
Any hopes of an ESS comeback were swiftly extinguished, as Rangers poured forward once more. Matthew Henderson's powerful shot was saved and Young-Coombes was first to the rebound to complete his hat-trick.
Mindful of greater tests ahead, Rangers coach David McCallum wisely withdrew Young-Coombes for Christopher McKee on the hour mark. However, there was no let-up in Rangers' approach, and they were five goals to the good soon after, when Lyall skipped down the right before crossing low to leave Mckee with the simplest of finishes.
With 17 minutes remaining, ESS were reduced to 10 men when Nassim Khadher was dismissed for raking his studs down the back of McKee's leg, a cynical foul picked up by VAR. The Glasgow striker showed no ill effects and soon helped himself to a second Rangers' sixth. And, astonishingly, there was still time for him to complete his hat-trick, poaching another from close range as Rangers confirmed their utter domination.