WYDAD TOPPLE FENERBAHCE IN SHOOTOUT THRILLER
Wydad produced an unlikely victory over Fenerbahce thanks to a dramatic sudden death penalty shootout, after the game had ended 1-1 in normal time. It was a match that the Turkish side had dominated, only to fall at the last.
Indeed, when Fenerbahce look back on their overall experience at Al Kass 2018, they may conclude that luck was not on their side. They had been a little unfortunate to have been drawn in Group B - the ‘group of death’ - alongside Real Madrid and Aspire Football Dreams, who are undoubtedly two of the tournament’s strongest sides.
Wydad, on the other hand, had been outfought in their 3-0 opening defeat to Esperance Tunis before succumbing to AC Milan in a game dominated by the Italians, despite the slender margin of victory.
The Moroccans’ star performer thus far had been keeper Taha Mourid, who had produced a string of fine saves against AC to keep the score down to 1-0. Given this focus on goal-stopping rather than goal-getting, it was perhaps no surprise that Wydad were the only team not to have scored in the group stages, and the attacking formation that they adopted this time round suggested they were aiming to improve this record.
However, it was Fenerbahce who started strongest, testing the Wydad backline, but not the keeper, in the opening exchanges. Then, on 20 minutes, Omer Beyaz went close for the Turkish side with a skilful overhead kick. However, his effort lacked power and Mourid gathered comfortably.
An end product was lacking for the Turks, who wasted a succession of corners and free kicks in advanced positions. A rare shot on target by diminutive forward Oguzhan Ozgan, on 35 minutes, again brought a routine save from Mourid, although he was certainly the busier of the two keepers.
Fenerbahce’s stopper, Omer Yalman had been a virtual spectator for much of the first half, with physically imposing centre back Cenk Alptekin marshalling a high backline that snuffed out any potential danger at source.
With half time approaching, Fenerbahce upped the intensity, and found reward on 42 minutes. The impressive Beyaz collected the ball in a central position 20 yards from goal, and charged into the area before setting up Ozgan to his left, who finished with aplomb into the bottom right corner.
Fenerbahce maintained their dominance as the second half began. Two minutes in, Beyaz carried the ball forward through the middle before laying off to Kannturk Akgul, who cracked a low shot that asked questions of Mourid, who once again found an answer, getting down sharply to his left to palm the goalbound effort away.
The Wydad keeper was enjoying another fine game, and minutes later he reacted quickly once more to prevent a certain goal, after Serhat Bulbul had been sent clear by left back Abdulcebrail Akbulut. The Fenerbahce striker went one-on-one with Mourid, who got a strong hand to the well-struck effort and palmed the ball over the bar.
It was one-way traffic until 65 minutes, when Wydad grabbed an unlikely equaliser with their first real attack on the game. Running from his own half, Ayman Rchoq latched on to a ball over the top and sprinted goalwards, turning inside to evade the challenge of Alptekin before firing in a low shot that Yalman got his hands to, but could not keep out. The Fenerbahce stopper would have expected to make a fairly routine save, and his costly misjudgement stood in marked contrast to the heroics of his opposite number.
Belatedly, Wydad began to find their feet, and might have stolen the lead with 12 minutes remaining when goalscorer Rchoq embarked on a tricky run down the left, cutting inside before firing just over.
Ultimately, neither side could conjure a decisive goal, and the first penalty shootout of Al Kass 2018 got underway.
Alptekin was up first for Fenerbache, and skied his effort over the bar. Rchoq stepped up next and nonchalantly put Wydad ahead. Star stopper Mourid then saved from Beyaz, his opposite number following suit to deny Ashraf Alaoui. It was 1-0 to Wydad with each side having taken two spot kicks. The next three efforts were converted before Fenerbahce’s Yalman produced a flying save to deny Saad Bouanana. Ozgan calmly converted next, leaving Wydad captain Mhammed Rabii to equalise.
With the score tied at 3-3, the shootout entered sudden death. Akgul made no mistake for the Turks, piling the pressure on Mounir Elharcha, who kept his cool to make it 4-4. Kaan Ayyildiz then fired over for Fenerbahce, leaving Yasser Alfirdaous to become the hero of the hour, dispatching his kick to see Wydad home. Wydad will have the opportunity to play for the ninth place in their final match on Sunday against Tottenham Hotspur.