Doha, 11 FebruaryDefending champions Al Sadd and current QNB Stars League (QSL) leaders Al Duhail set up a mouth-watering Qatar Cup 2023 final after winning their respective semi-finals at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium yesterday.
Seeking a hat-trick of titles, Al Sadd outsmarted Al Arabi 3-1 in the first semi-final on their home turf that later witnessed Al Duhail bouncing back to edge a spirited Al Wakrah side 2-1 in the second semi-final.
The final of Qatar Cup, which has returned after a year’s break, is scheduled to be played on April 6. Al Sadd were victorious in the 2020 and 2021 editions while Al Duhail last won the prestigious title in 2018.
The fiery first clash saw three red cards and seven yellow cards, and was clearly dominated by Al Sadd with more ball possession and flurry of attacks against Al Arabi.
The Wolves, who fired eight shots on target against the Dream Team, started attacking right from the start with Akram Afif leading most of the attacks. They benefitted from Al Arabi’s first red card when Ahmed Suhail was sent off after he stepped on Baghdad Bounedjah’s shoe as the striker chased the ball towards the danger area.
Santi Cazorla in a resulting free kick fired a perfect dipper for Jung Woo-Young and the South Korean’s brilliant header put Al Sadd ahead in the 43rd minute.
The Juan Manuel Lillo’s side doubled their lead through a stunning show from Bounedjah, who broke past three Al Arabi defenders to net Al Sadd’ second goal in 45+1 minutes.
The second half started with the same pace and nine minutes after the break Al Sadd were also reduced to 10 men with Tarek Salman being shown the red card for bringing down Al Arabi’s Hamed Ismail.
Al Arabi lost another player in the 63rd minute when Marc Muniesa was given the marching orders for pushing Afif.
Nine minutes after coming off the bench, substitute Musaab Khedir extended Al Sadd’s lead with a strike in 79th minute. Al Arabi, who were unable to score despite several attempts, finally got a goal when man-marking Boualem Khoukhi while trying to thwart a free kick sent the ball into his own goal four minutes before time.
After the goal, Al Arabi tried hard to make a fightback as Yousef Msakni’s free kick just missed the target and another attempt by the Tunisian was cancelled by goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham.
“It was an eventful and exciting semi-final,” Al Sadd coach Lillo said after the match.
“We created many chances and took control of the match after scoring two goals in the first half. I am happy with players’ performance in both the halves. We deserved the victory and I hope we will be stronger in the final,” he added.
Al Duhail bounce back to reach final
The second semi-final at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium also produced thrilling action with Al Duhail rallying to edge Al Wakrah after scoring twice in the second half.
Competing for the first time in the tournament since it was renamed in 2014, Al Wakrah took the lead in 15th minute when Mohamed Benyettou after receiving a long ball launched a strike which bounced over goalkeeper’s head into the net after taking a defender’s touch.
Hernan Crespo’s Al Duhail failed to find equaliser in the first half but they were better after the break with Michael Olunga bringing them back in the semi-final with a goal in 51st minute.
The Kenyan striker received a through pass from Sultan Al Brake and his slight touch from near the penalty spot was enough to beat a defender and goal keeper Saoud Mubarak Al Khater.
Olunga played a role in Nam Taee-hee’s winning goal in 72nd minute too as Al Khater trying to block his cross from the left failed to hold the ball and the South Korean made no mistake, firing the decisive blow on Al Wakrah into an open net.
“Al Wakrah gave us a tough fight and we lacked solutions against them in the first half despite having the ball,” Al Duhail star Bassam Al Rawi said after the match.
“We spoke during the break and everybody was determined to make a fightback in the match. We availed our chances well in the second half. We will now give our best in the final to regain the title,” he added.