February 20, 2020
ITALIAN YOUNGSTERS ARE INTER THE SEMI-FINALS AFTER BEATING ASPIRE
Inter Milan ended Qatari hopes of a home success in this year’s Al Kass International Cup as Amadou Sarr scored the only goal of the match.
Sarr, a two-goal hero in their opening match victory over Mohammed XI Academy, grabbed the only goal of the game to knock out hosts Aspire Academy.
The Italians had reached the semi-finals on each of their two previous visits to Qatar and they maintained that record with a hard-earned victory in a game of very few chances.
Aspire, who have played in all nine editions of the tournament, had topped Group A on their way to the quarter-finals, and they were much the better team in the first half with Mohamed Surag a constant threat down the left.
Inter raised their game in the second half although they had to wait until the 81st minute to find the all-important goal, just as the game seemed to be heading for a penalty shoot-out.
Inter had the better of the early stages but Aspire were the first to have a shot in anger, Chalpan Abdoulnasir sending a fine long-range angle shot narrowly wide of the post after 12 minutes, with Surag then firing into the arms of Inter keeper Paolo Raimondi.
Inter had a glorious opportunity on 17 minutes when Gabriele Menegatti powered in a fine left-foot drive that Amir Katoul could only parry into the path of Kifle Gambato but the striker failed to take advantage and his effort was well off target.
Surag shot wide as Aspire continued to push forward and the lively striker then went even closer on the half-hour mark as he created space on the edge of the box before firing just past the post.
Sloppy defending by Inter skipper Andrea Pelamatti saw him dispossessed by Mobark Hamza but he was unable to make the Italians pay.
Half-time was reached with no goals, the first goal-less first half of the tournament to date, but Aspire were comfortably the better team, enjoying 57% possession and having five shots to Inter’s two.
The Italians, who made seven changes from the previous day’s 1-0 defeat by Altinordu, had been nowhere near as good as when they had beaten Mohammed VI Academy 3-1. This, however, was a full-strength Inter squad as they had made wholesale changes against Altinordu.
Inter were much improved after the break but there were few clear-cut chances and Menegatti shot straight at the keeper shortly after the hour-mark before Sarr headed narrowly wide.
It was Sarr who finally found the net though with just nine minutes remaining, when he got away from Abdulnasir to head home Mattia Ortelli’s well-flighted free-kick.
In a cagey affair with very few chances, Aspire knew they would now struggle to get back into the match but they went agonisingly close with almost the last kick of the game, as Abdulraham Al-Dosari crashed a superb effort against the post.
Inter, as with many Italian teams, are difficult to break down and they will now look to reach their final, having finished fourth in 2013 and gone one better in 2016. Roma reached the final last year, where they were only beaten in a penalty shoot-out by Glasgow Rangers, and now they will be dreaming of becoming the first Italian winners of the Al Kass International Cup.