January 31, 2018

With Pride on the Line, AFD and AC Milan Prevail

The penultimate day of competition at Al Kass International Cup 2018 saw strong play from four teams who, but for a few unlucky bounces, could have been playing in today’s final.

Aspire Football Dreams topped defending tournament champion Real Madrid, 3-1, to capture fifth place, and AC Milan outlasted host Aspire Academy on penalties to snag seventh.

The fifth-place tilt was a rematch of a group stage game that saw the sides draw, 1-1. This game started just as competitively, and Aspire grabbed the lead with aggressive play. Salim Diaby chased down and dispossessed Julio Escorcia inside the area, and set up Christian Otabil for the most routine of goals.

Each side had opportunities to change the scoreline, and on 55 minutes, Real’s Juan Latasa equalised with a thunderbolt cross-shot that squeezed under AFD keeper Appiah Kubi. But the night ultimately belonged to AFD, who found the winning rhythm as the game progressed. In the 65th minute, Isaac Nuhu launched a splendid first-time curling shot into the far corner from 18 yards for a 2-1 lead. With five minutes left, Umar Lutalo outjumped the defence on a corner and headed in the insurance third goal.

The seventh-place match featured AC Milan, with only one goal to their name in their first three matches, against hosts Aspire Academy, tough-luck losers to Espérance de Tunis in the quarter-finals.

Much of the focus of the match was on the penalty spot. On 27 minutes, AC Milan’s Riccardo Martimbianco drew a penalty on Aspire Academy’s Naif Alhadhrami in the area. Riccardo Tonin’s shot was too good for the keeper and the Italian side led 1-0.

Aspire held fast in the face of an organised Milan side that dominated possession for most of the first half, and the hosts were rewarded on the one-hour mark. Ahmed Alganehi drew contact at 25 yards out, and his resulting free kick gave Niccolo’ Zanellato no chance.

The teams traded attacks as the second half progressed, with none finding fruition. In the ensuing penalty shootout, the first five kicks were good before Zanellato saved from Aspire’s Mohammed Al-Naimi. Tonin calmly sent home the winner, securing victory and seventh place for Milan.

Today, the third-place game between Benfica and Espérance de Tunis begins at 3:30 pm, followed by the cup final between Paris Saint-Germain and Kashiwa Reysol at 5:55 pm.