DOHA: Algeria beat Tunisia 2-0 to lift the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup trophy in Qatar on Saturday in a hotly contested final between the two North African giants.
It took a spectacular strike from Amir Sayoud after 99 minutes to break the deadlock in a close game that had gone scoreless at the end of regulation time. Yacine Brahimi then sealed the victory with the final kick.
Losing by two goals was tough for Tunisia. Either team could have won this clash at Al-Bayt Stadium in Al-Khor city. It was a great end to what has been an exciting and exciting competition.
As the African champions, who had beaten Morocco and Qatar in the round of 16, celebrated in front of their supporters, the start of the match already seemed to be a thing of the past despite an exciting opening.
Tunisia, who had not lost a competitive match against Algeria in 34 years, started off on a good foot and nearly took the lead after 13 minutes. A long free kick made its way to the far post with Bilel Ifa on hold, and as his header beat the goalkeeper, he bounced off the crossbar. Shortly after, Hocine Benayada was not far from putting the ball in his own net as he tried to clear a Tunisian attack.
Then suddenly, with 20 minutes on the clock, Algeria should have scored at the break. Baghdad Bounedjah broke free on the right and it looked like Tayeb Meziani just had to kick the ball from close range, but somehow the 25-year-old shot wide. Ten minutes later, Brahimi also looked set to score from close range after a great job down Mohamed Belaili’s left, but his shot was blocked.
It all got a bit of a bad mood for the remainder of the half as referee Daniel Siebert gave up four yellow cards in the final few minutes.
The second half started off brilliantly as a first, with both teams moving into dangerous positions without creating the clear chances needed to break the deadlock. It was football from start to finish, but there were usually defenders out there to make a tackle or block as a last resort. It came down to 10 minutes from time, when Tunisian Mohamed Drager was about to pull the trigger inside the box, only for Ilyes Cheti to ward off the danger.
Neither coach wanted to make any changes and the Tunisian approach seemed likely to be justified as they began to shoot more set pieces into the Algerian box, but with little return. Extra time had looked likely for much of the second half, but it was a late goal tournament, and Seifeddine Jaziri had the best chance from half to the last minute. The tournament’s top scorer grabbed the goal but, after being forced wider than he would have liked by the Algerian defense, he shot into the side net.
It was always going to take something special to break this tightest deadlock, and it happened in the 99th minute. Amir Sayoud had the ball 25 yards from goal and for once there was an unobstructed view of the goal, the substitute letting go with his left foot and the ball flying into the skylight to give goalkeeper Mouez Hassen no chance.
As expected, Tunisia came back and in the dying seconds of the first overtime period Raiss M’Bolhi had to make a smart save on a fierce strike from Mohamed Ali Ben Rhomdane. At the start of the second half, Mohamed Firas Ben Larbi approached, shooting a few inches from the edge of the box.
The Carthage Eagles continued to advance with growing desperation and had a corner kick in stoppage time with goalkeeper Hassen entering the opposing box. Algeria cleared and there was Brahimi to run up against an empty Tunisian half, and roll the ball from close range to start the celebrations.
Earlier on Saturday, Qatar took third place ahead of Egypt, winning on penalties 5-4 after 120 minutes of scoreless football. It was Mohamed Sherif who missed the target for Egypt.