African champions run out 2-0 winners in Qatar after hosts secured third place in tournament
Algeria were crowned champions of the inaugural Fifa Arab Cup on Saturday night when they defeated Tunisia 2-0 after extra-time in the final in Qatar.
The African champions captured the title through substitute Amir Sayoud’s superb 99th-minute strike and then Yacine Brahimi’s injury-time goal, after the match at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor finished goalless in normal time. Earlier on Saturday, hosts Qatar had sealed third place following a penalty-shoot-out victory against Egypt in Doha.
Algeria, though, would go on to lift the trophy, courtesy initially of a brilliant breakaway goal set up by Baghdad Bounedjah. The Al Sadd striker’s flick played in Sayoud, who curled home a fantastic effort past rooted Tunisia goalkeeper Mouez Hassen.
Then, right at the death and with Hassen desperately contesting a corner in the opposition area, Brahimi raced on to a clearance, ran all the way to the Tunisia goal, and placed the ball into an empty net. Algeria, led at this tournament by former Fujairah manager Madjid Bougherra, were champions.
In a feisty first half crammed with the incident — there were five yellow cards — both sides had clear opportunities to grab the lead. On 14 minutes, Tunisia defender Bilel Ifa met Naim Sliti’s deep free-kick at the back post but thudded his header onto the Algeria crossbar. Five minutes later, Sliti cut inside from the right and forced Algerian captain Rais Mbolhi to tip his shot over the bar.
Almost in a flash, Algeria spurned the best chance of the half. Bounedjah sent a low cross from the right to Tayeb Meziani, who seemed certain to score. Five yards out, albeit with both opposition goalkeeper and defender closing in, the midfielder somehow placed his shot well off target. Those jammed inside the stadium — the official attendance was more than 60,000 — not to mention everyone watching on television, could scarcely believe it.
Just after the half-hour, Brahimi was about to grab the lead for Algeria thanks to a fine run by Youcef Belaili. However, Tunisian defenders threw themselves in front of the ball, blocking his path to the goal.
And there was still time before the break for the game’s major flashpoint. Tunisia’s Seifeddine Jaziri caught Bounedjah with a flailing arm as the latter protested a free-kick, with Bounedjah crashing to the turf. Jaziri was promptly booked – VAR did review the foul – much to Bounedjah’s dismay: the Algerian was at pains to point to the blood drawn by Jaziri’s arm.
In comparison, the second half was pretty uneventful. To be fair, it was still full of commitment and conviction, but the only real chance fell in the final minute. Tunisia broke forward, with Jaziri bearing down on goal. Yet the tournament’s top scorer (four goals) flashed wide his attempt. In truth, it was a tired effort.
Then Sayoud injected life into the contest and, with a swoosh of his left boot, sent Algeria on their way to the cup. As the clock ticked well past 120 minutes, Brahimi made sure of the result. The first Fifa Arab Cup was Algeria’s.
“The National News”