Al Sadd beats Esperance 2-1 at Club World Cup

Toyota (Japan): Qatari side Al Sadd overcame a slow start on Sunday to beat Tunisia`s Esperance 2-1 and advance to the semifinals of the Club World Cup where they will face Spanish giants Barcelona.

Esperance dominated play in the first half but it was Al Sadd that took the lead in the 33rd minute when Kader Keita sent a cross in from the right side that Esperance goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifia parried into the air only to have Khalfan Al Khalfan head the ball in.

"Esperance was very good in the first 10 minutes of the match," Al Sadd coach Jorge Fossati said. "They were able to control the ball and had a lot of space especially in the midfield so I changed the game plan and we were able to control the ball much better and were able to succeed on the counterattack."

Al Sadd doubled the lead four minutes after the break. Abdulla Koni, left unmarked in front of goal, pounced on a headed ball from Al Khalfan and fired into an open net.

Esperance pulled one back on the hour mark when captain Ousama Darragi headed in Khelil Chammam`s free kick. The Tunisians played with a sense of urgency as the match wore on and had two goals ruled offside later in the second half.

Yannick Ndjeng appeared to have equalized for the Africans in the 79th minute but was judged to be offside. Khaled Ayari also beat Al Sadd goalkeeper Mohamed Saqr in the first minute of stoppage time but was called offside by Chilean referee Enrique Osses.

Esperance supporters showed their displeasure by throwing objects on the field and several supporters ran onto the pitch

"I think we did make both those goals even though the referee ruled them offside," Esperance coach Nabil Maaloul said. "But referees can make mistakes just like players and I am not in a position to question the calls."

Fossati said his team was looking forward to facing the European champions.

"Anything can happen in football," Fossati said. "Barcelona is the best club in the world but as long as we remain humble and maintain our spirit anything can happen."

Ndjeng had Esperance`s best chance in the first half with an angled shot that hit the far post. Saqr was tested again later in the opening half when Youssef Msakni fired a right-footed shot that the Al Sadd goalkeeper stopped by diving to his right.

Esperance beat Wydad Casablanca 1-0 in November to win the African Champions League for the second time.

Al Sadd, playing in the tournament for the first time, advanced last month when the Qatari club upset South Korea`s Jeonbuk Motors 4-2 in a penalty shootout in the Asian Champions League final.

Mexico`s Monterrey faces J-League champions Kashiwa Reysol in the other quarterfinal match later Sunday.

Bureau Report

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