Brilliant Afif Takes Al Sadd Into Amir Cup Final

(MENAFN- The Peninsula) Fawad Hussain |The Peninsula

Doha, Qatar: Qatar star Akram Afif scored a stunning goal as Al Sadd defeated Al Duhail 1-0 to reach the Amir Cup final at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium yesterday.

It was a solo effort from the forward, who carried the ball from the halfway line clearing several defenders to slot the winning goal in the 46th minute.

Al Sadd are now just a victory away from claiming their record-extending 19th crown as they will enter the title clash as favourites with Al Gharafa meeting Qatar SC in the second semi-final today.

The defeat ended Al Duhail's abysmal season in which they finished sixth in the Expo Stars League (ESL) as defending champions, having clinched the treble last season. They will miss the next season's AFC Champions League after failing to win the Amir Cup.

Yesterday's result could have been different for Christophe Galtier's Al Duhail had Philippe Coutinho converted a penalty in the first half of the cagey semi-final attended by 16,371 spectators.

But it was Al Sadd's day with their fans unveiling Baghdad Bounedjah's tifo paying tribute to the Algerian striker, who will leave the club after an eight-year stint.

“I am very thankful to fans for their support over the years. I have great memories with Al Sadd club and now I am looking to leave the club by lifting the Amir Cup,” Bounedjah said after the match.

“We are delighted to reach the final after a tough match and our next target is winning the final.”

Pic: Qatar News Agency

There were immediate exchanges of attacks soon after the kickoff and the momentum continued but no team could find the back of the net in the first half with Al Duhail having two shots on target as compared to Al Sadd's one in the opening session.

Galtier's Red Knights should have taken the lead in the 25th minute after they were awarded the penalty for Andres Villa's foul against Michael Olunga inside the box.

But goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham denied them the lead blocking Coutinho's attempt diving to his right and Al Sadd were lucky not to have conceded the goal after the ball had ricocheted off the post as the Brazilian's second attempt flew over the bar.

Barsham made another fine save from Olunga's attempt three minutes before half-time as the teams returned to the dug-out with a stalemate.

But Afif soon broke the deadlock with a masterclass, netting the ball in the far corner of the net with an angular strike from the left following a long run.

Al Duhail made several attempts for an equaliser and Almoez Ali's hit in the 77th minute was their closest chance which was parried by Boualem Khoukhi as Al Sadd stayed in contention for a double this season after becoming the ESL champions.

Al Gharafa, Qatar SC eye final spot

Meanwhile, Al Gharafa are hoping to stay on track for the title as they will take on Qatar SC at Al Janoub Stadium today.

The Cheetahs, coached by Pedro Martins, stayed in the ESL title race until the end but had to settle for third place before Al Rayyan eliminated them in the Qatar Cup semi-final.

Martins said Al Gharafa must seize the opportunity to end season by winning the prestigious Amir Cup.

“Al Gharafa SC deserve titles and this is our last chance to lift the trophy this season,” he said ahead of the semi-final.

Al Gharafa registered a hard-fought 4-2 win over Umm Salal in the quarter-final, and Martins was expecting another tough game for his side.

“Qatar SC have done well to reach the semi-final and they will be very difficult. But I am confident that we will achieve our goal of reaching the final,” he said.

Qatar SC stunned Al Rayyan in a penalty shootout of a dramatic quarter-final which ended 4-4 in extra time. The Youssef Al Noubi's side was confident of giving another good show in the tournament.

“Our confidence is high after our win in the quarter-final and we have prepared well for the semi-final,” said coach Al Noubi.

“Al Gharafa will be very difficult but we are looking forward to reaching the final. The players are very motivated and they are ready to give their best,” he added.


The Peninsula

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