Roma Are Spot on to End Aspire’s Dream
Roma became the first Italians to reach the final of the Al Kass International Cup since Juventus in the inaugural tournament in 2012, despite losing their perfect winning record. The Italians seemed to be cruising to their fourth victory of the tournament when going 2-0 up but player of the match Mekki Tombari scored twice in four second-half minutes to earn a draw and set up the tournament’s first penalty shoot-out.
Roma made no mistake as they scored with all four of their spot kicks while Italian keeper Pietro Boer pulled off two fine saves to send his side into the final.
Roma should have taken the lead after 18 minutes when Nicola Zalewski put through promising midfielder Tomasso Milanese but he shot wide, and the same player went close with another effort moments later.
Zalewski gave the Italians the lead with one of the goals of the tournament on 40 minutes. He powered home a right-foot shot and Roma doubled their lead two minutes later when Balideh left a gap at his near post and Mory Bamba fired home from a tight angle. Aspire went close on 61 minutes when Fahad Al-Abdulla’s clever backheel found Faisal Azadi and his dipping shot crashed against the bar with Boer well beaten.
The hosts pulled one back on 68 minutes when Tombari was brought down by Alessio Buttaro, and the striker picked himself up to convert the penalty.
He then brought the crowd to life with a spectacular volley three minutes later to bring the scores level and set up an exciting finale. Roma thought they had gone back in front with 15 minutes to go but Vittorio Agostinelli’s headed effort was ruled out for offside.
Both teams pushed for a winner but it remained 2-2 and onto penalties, where Filippo Tripi, Agostinelli, Vincenzo Muteba and Matteo Cancellieri converted for Roma. Faisal Azadi found the net from Aspire’s first spot kick but Naif Alhadhrami and Tombari then missed, leaving the Italians celebrating victory.