Al Arabi reach Amir Cup final
DOHA: Al Arabi ended a 26-year wait to reach the final of the Amir Cup with a convincing 2-0 win over Al Markhiya at the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium.
After several years of frustration, the Doha historic outfit fans will be dreaming of a ninth Amir Cup title, though holders Al Duhail or Al Sadd wait for them in the final.
Goals from Aron Gunnarsson (17th minute) and Abdulaziz al-Ansari (59th) were enough for Al Arabi to see off Markhiya, ending the second division team’s dream run in the prestigious championship.
On the eve of the game, the threat of another Markhiya upset was looming for Arabi, but coach Heimir Hallgrimson was able to call upon Marc Muniesa, Hamdi Harbaoui and Mehdi Torabi, while Sebastian Soria made a second half appearance.
Markhiya goalkeeper Basel Samih was a busy man on the night and he made his first save in the eighth minute, diving to his right to keep out Hamdi Amdulmaged.
Samih though couldn’t keep out Iceland midfielder Gunnarsson’s strike. After Torabi’s free kick was headed away by Aldouni Mohamad it fell perfectly on to Gunnarsson, who smashed it onto the net after a deflection of Markhiya defender Anas Bani Yaseen.
Markhiya coach Omar Naji’s plan for his players to cross the ball into the box nearly worked. Qatar U-23 player Mohamed al-Qahtani played in fine cross from right, but Jameel al-Yahmadi failed to make a connection.
Arabi then went close to doubling the lead as Mehrad Keshrazi dribbled past three defenders only to hit a weak shot into the hands of Samih.
Markhiya were a improved side in the second half but Arabi still dictated the play. Gunnarsson once again played a key role in Arabi’s goal in the 59th minute. The Iceland captain’s precise pass found al-Ansari, who then played a one-two with Harbaoui, before smashing into the top right corner.
Al Arabi could have scored more but their energy level dropped significantly in the last 15 minutes even as Markhiya failed to take any advantage.