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Players of Al Arabi and Al Gharafa in a free-for-all commotion at the end of the semi-final match of Qatar Stars Cup at Qatar Sports Club, yesterday. Al Arabi won 2-1 to reach the final of the Qatar Stars Cup. PICTURE BY: Mohammed Al Obaidly
DOHA: Spirited Al Arabi yesterday edged title favourites Al Gharafa 2-1 to reach the final of the Qatar Stars Cup in a clash that saw free-for-all commotion at the end of the match.
Goals by Djordje Rakic (36) and Wanderley (85) helped Al Arabi stun Al Gharafa in the tense clash at Qatar Sports Club.
For the losers, Nene drilled a shot home from an acute angle in the 83rd minute.
Minutes later, Nene took a wild swing with his left hand and hit Abdullah Marafee following a stoppage in play caused by red card to Al Gharafa’s Fahad Al Shammari for a rough foul on an Al Arabi player.
Nene and Marafee had been each other throughout the clash but in injury time tempers frayed once again as both players fell in a heap following a rough tackle seconds before the end of the match.
Just as referee showed the red card to Al Shammari, Marafee deliberately came in Nene’s walk towards the match official. Marafee’s unwarranted soft shoulder charge at Nene ticked off the Brazilian who took a swing at the Al Arabi midfielder.
One swing from Nene created a commotion as players from both sides threw punches and kicks.
Seconds later, Marafee went for a kung-fu strike at Nene, a scene that was similar to Eric Cantona’s infamous kick at a Crystal Palace fan in 1995.
Both players were red carded by the referee as was Husseine Kharja of Al Arabi.
Nene, joined Al Gharafa on a two-and-a-half-year deal in January, is likely to face a stiff punishment from Qatar Football Association’s (QFA) disciplinary committee.
Both, Marafee and Kharja will miss the March 25 final.
Al Gharafa could have taken the lead early after 12 minutes following a fumble from Al Arabi keeper Rajab Hamza Kassim. He missed a corner from Alex but Mustafa Mohammed Abdi could only head wide.
Minutes later the Leopards had yet another chance to score first, this time Mark Bresciano releasing Al Shammari with a brilliant through ball. The midfielder took too long though and the chance was gone.
Al Arabi responded to the pressure with an attack of their own but Abdelaziz Mohamed’s shot was brilliantly saved by Abdulaziz Ali Abdulla.
Ten minutes before half-time Al Arabi took the lead with a well worked goal.
Brazilian star Wanderley stormed clear, before feeding Rakic who composed himself before calmly slotting into the bottom corner.
Al Gharafa tried to get back into the game immediately, but Djibril Cisse drilled a shot over the bar.
Moments later the French striker wasted another chance when he pulled his shot wide of goal after sprinting into the box.
Eight minutes after the re-start, Al Arabi went looking for a second goal. This time Wanderely cut inside the box and flashed a shot across goal that keeper Ali Abdulla did well to hold.
Just before the hour mark Al Gharafa introduced Brazilian star Nene in place of Jawad Akeel Ahannach as the Leopards looked for an equalizer.
Within minutes the former Paris Saint Germain star almost scored but his shot trundled just wide of the post.
Al Gharafa were starting to dominate and wanted to make the possession count. Nene forced a great save from Al Arabi keeper Kazim after drilling a vicious free-kick towards goal.
Despite the pressure it was Abdulaziz Bennij’s side who went straight up the park and almost scored a second. This time Rakic failed to show the same composure in front of goal and sent a wild shot wide of goal. Eight minutes from time though, it was Al Gharafa who got the goal and it was Nene who was rewarded for his persistence.
The number 10 weaved into the box before drilling low into the bottom corner.
Al Gharafa were still celebrating when Al Arabi took the lead for the second time.
Kharja- later red-carded - whipped in a dangerous free-kick from the left which Wanderely got on the end of to glance a great header into the back of the net.
It was a goal completely against the run of play but that wasn’t something that bothered Abdulaziz Bennij or his players.
Al Gharafa came agonisingly close to an equaliser in the 90th minute but Cisse’s header bounced back off the bar before the ball was cleared to safety.
The second semi-final between Lekhwiya and Eljaish kicks off at 6.30pm tonight at Qatar Sports Club.The Peninsula