Al Duhail end Al Arabi’s title defence, to meet Al Sadd in tasty semi-final

Al Duhail end Al Arabi’s title defence, to meet Al Sadd in tasty semi-final

Alkass Digital

 Michael Olunga scored a brace as Al Duhail showed great resilience to knock defending champions Al Arabi out of Amir Cup with a thrilling 3-2 victory in the quarter-finals at Al Janoub Stadium yesterday.

The Red Knights, who won their last of the four titles two years ago, will meet arch-rivals Al Sadd in an enticing semi-final. The Wolves edged Al Wakrah 1-0 with Baghdad Bounedjah scoring the winner in 20th minute as Wesam Rizk’s team took sweet revenge of their defeat in the Qatar Cup semi-final earlier this month.

With both the sides firing on all cylinders right from the kick off, Youssef Msakni powered Al Arabi into a third-minute lead, slotting the opener in the right corner from outside the box.

Al Duhail levelled the match just five minutes later with Olunga rising to connect Almoez Ali’s chip from the left as both teams continued their aggressive show exchanging attacks in quick intervals.

Msakni stunned the Red Knights again in 10th minute, unleashing a lofty shot into the net from a distance after seeing goalkeeper Salah Zakaria Hassan near the edge of the box as Al Arabi regained their lead.

But Christophe Galtier’s side fought back again with Philippe Coutinho scoring the equaliser from a close range in 25th minute, picking the ball that deflected off Abdou Diallo as he attempted to block Almoez’s cross from the left. The score-line remained intact at half-time despite multiple exchanges in the enthralling first half.

Al Duhail were better in the second half with the winning goal coming from Olunga in the 59th minute. Evading his marker, the Kenyan striker positioned himself well to pick Ismail Mohamad’s cross, scoring from near the penalty spot as Al Arabi never recovered from that goal despite making several attempts.

Zakaria, who made a fine block of Omar Al Somah's attempt, was delighted with the win as the Red Knights remained in contention for the title in a struggling season.

Al Sadd's Baghdad Bounedjah (second left) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against Al Wakrah.

“We started on a poor note by conceding a goal in the third minute, but we managed to come back strongly and showed our strong mentality,” he said.

“We played with fighting spirit, and this is the nature of cup matches, which requires showing a great desire to win.”

Later at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, Bounedjah was assisted by Gonzalo Jimenez for the all-important goal as Al Sadd held on to their lead to stay in hunt for a record-extending 19th title.

Goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham also played crucial role in the victory making several brilliant saves to deny Al Wakrah a comeback like they made in the Qatar Cup semi-final before winning on penalty shootout.

Bounedjah had scored his second goal in stoppage time but VAR turned down his effort ruling out a foul just before Al Sadd celebrated their victory.

“We learn from our mistakes, and thankfully, we delivered a good performance today, enabling us to achieve a deserved victory and continue our journey in the tournament,” said Al Sadd’s Mohammed Waad.

“I want to thank our fans who supported us wholeheartedly, and this is the least we can offer them. We look forward to seeing them in the semi-finals and, God willing, in the final, where we can celebrate the title with them,” he added.

Confident Al Rayyan eye semis spot

Brimming with confidence after a 4-1 rout of Al Khor, Al Rayyan will lock horns with Qatar SC at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium targeting a place in the semi-final.

“We are ready for the match and the confidence is high after a brilliant performance against Al Khor. The match is not going to be easy but we are looking forward to maintain our winning run,” said Al Rayyan coach Leonardo Jardim.

“It’s a knockout tournament and certainly double efforts are required to achieve the desired result,” he added.

Qatar SC also registered a dominant win, beating debutants Al Waab 2-0 in the Round of 16 with coach Youssef Al Noubi hoping his side to maintain their form.

“Al Rayyan are tough as they have many good players and a great coach. But we are confident and will give our best to reach the quarter-finals,” said the Qatar SC coach.

Also today, Al Gharafa and Umm Salal are set for a thrilling quarter-final clash at the Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium.

The Cheetahs overcame a tough challenge from Al Ahli beating them 4-3 in extra time to secure their place in the quarter-finals.

Al Gharafa coach Pedro Martins was expecting another tough game for his side.

“I anticipate an exciting game as Umm Salal have been very impressive this season. Small details will make a difference and I hope we will be up to the mark and qualify for the semi-finals,” said Martins.

Umm Salal prevailed over Al Bidda 3-1 in extra time to advance to the quarter-finals with coach Patrice Carteron telling his players to come up with an improved performance.

“We have to be at the highest level against Al Gharafa. We are ready and our target is to clear the hurdle and reach the semi-finals,” said Carteron.