Al Sadd defeated Al Arabi 3-1 in a thrilling first semifinal of Qatar Cup 2023 at the Al Sadd Stadium on Thursday and qualified for the final.
The exciting encounter, played at a fast pace almost throughout the length, became a battle between a 10-man Al Sadd and a nine-man Al Arabi following strong tackles and rough challenges.
Al Sadd, who led 2-0 at half-time, eventually went on to win with their goals coming from Jung Woo-Young (41st minute), Baghdad Bounedjah (45+1) and substitute Musaab Khedir (79th minute).
Al Arabi’s only goal was courtesy an own goal from Boualem Khoukhi in the 86th minute.
Not just the three red cards, there were also five yellow cards shown as players jostled and tried their best to outdo the rivals till the final whistle providing great thrills to the large number of fans present at the venue.
The red cards were given to Al Arabi’s Ahmed Suhail (41st minute) and Marc Muniesa (63rd minute), and to Al Sadd’s Tarek Salman (54th minute).
It was a clash of attack and counter-attack, with both teams showing great spark right from the moment the ball got kicked off.
Al Arabi showed very good defence, with Al Sadd’s livewire Akram Afif initiating fine moves down the left and their forward line co-ordinating extremely well.
Al Arabi too looked for openings and Yousef Msakni was there to strike at every opportunity.
But with both sides holding tight, the game slowed down a bit in the later stages. In the 35th minute, Al Sadd’s Pedro Miguel was flashed with a yellow for back tackling and soon Santi Cazorla was also fouled by Al Arabi’s Ahmed Fathy.
And then followed a mishap, minutes before the first half, which changed the complexion of the game entirely for Al Arabi.
In the 41st minute, Ahmed Suhail was flashed with a red card for stepping on to Bounedjah’s left shoe when the player was chasing the ball towards the danger area.
The resultant free-kick was taken by Cazorla who sent in a perfect dipper for Jung to head an equally pleasing opening goal much to the delight of Al Sadd fans.
The Wolves added to the delight with another beautiful goal within minutes. Making a move, Pedro passed one to Cazorla who moved it to Bounedjah and he broke past three Al Arabi defenders, clinging on to the ball and keeping control. He then coolly got it just past an on looking goalkeeper Mahmoud Abunada, into the far corner of the net.
The second half too produced a tough battle with Tarek Salman being shown red for bringing down Al Arabi’s Hamed Ismail just at the top of the box.
In the 63rd minute, a menacing Afif was pushed by Muniesa only for the latter to receive marching orders.
The only joy for Al Arabi, despite their many attempts, came when an Al Arabi free-kick was sent into his own goal by a man-marking Khoukhi.
Given a ray of hope, Al Arabi tried hard and in the 88th minute, a Msakni free-kick went just over the crossbar to land over the net.
The very next minute, Msakni had another chance, but the goalkeeper rushed in to spoil the chance.
Khoukhi, aiming to make amends for his error, then produced a flying kick which dangerously hit the crossbar.