Sudan's players celebrate slender goal victory over Libya
Libya v Sudan 0-1
Libya, the highest ranked team in the Pan Arab Games' Men’s Football Tournament disappointingly lost their opening Group C match against Sudan who managed to pull off a shock result, winning 1-0 with a goal on 82 minutes by Mohamed Marhoum.
With the African Cup of Nations in mind, this tournament should give a real indication as to the credentials of the Mediterranean Knights, and how they may fare in next month’s tournament. On this showing at the Al-Gharrafa Stadium in Doha, however, Libya will consider themselves fortunate to have qualified.
Prior to kick-off, Libya were considered one of the favourites for this tournament but the chances of Marcos Paquetá’s side getting a medal will be under serious consideration following an extremely poor performance against Sudan’s B team in sweltering conditions.
The Brazilian coach had decided on an unorthodox and previously untested 3-3-2-1 formation, with Faisal al Badri and Ihaab al Bousseffi the shocks in the starting line-up.
The warm conditions made for a very slow start to the game, with Fared Mohamed’s early effort for Sudan not troubling goalkeeper Sameer Aboud.
The youthful Sudanese outfit focused their attacks on the wings, where there were noticeable gaps, and were swift on the counter-attack. Mountasir Awad fired straight at Aboud after a run from the right.
The game’s first real chance arrived on 17 minutes. Ihaab Bouseffi was set clear down the middle; his first touch, though heavy, allowed him to take the ball round ‘keeper Akram Saleem, but with a gaping goal at his mercy he could only fire into the side netting.
Libya began to exert pressure on the underdogs, and after a smart corner routine from the right, Waleed al Khatroushi had a tremendous drive that smashed against the crossbar.
From then on, however, the game began to fizzle out, with neither side being able to gain control of the midfield, leading to congestion in the middle of the park. Al Khatroushi was taken off injured, to be replaced by the League of Ireland’s top scorer, Éamon Zayed.
Sudan started the second half the stronger, with Ahmed Abdallah firing wide after a mazy run from right back, then Osama Abdussalam, who disappointed for Libya on the left, overhit his through ball to Zayed, whose attempted chip was blocked by the onrushing Saleem.
With neither side successful in playing through the other’s defence, it was left to the wide men to attempt to create something of note; the absence of Ahmed Zuway from the Libyan line-up was sorely missed, as many of Abdussalam’s corners were wayward in their direction.
As the game neared its conclusion, however, a defensive mix-up granted Sudan the opportunity to take all three points. Samir Aboud’s throw unsettled Ahmed al Alwani, and the centre half’s inability to gain control of the ball allowed substitute Marhoum to steal in, before placing his shot beyond Aboud to hand Sudan a real chance of victory.
The Sudanese players rightly celebrated wildly as the fans gathered inside the 25,000 capacity stadium showed their appreciation.
The goal finally jerked Libya into action, and Ahmed Sa’ad, the creative force in this otherwise ordinary side, attempted to salvage a point for his side, when with the game entering stoppage time, his excellent run took him into the penalty area. His pullback found Zayed, who inexplicably failed to make clean contact with the ball, and watched his lame effort dribble out of play.
The forward, who scored 22 goals in 36 games for Derry City this season, was in disbelief at his failure to convert such a golden opportunity.
Libya had another excellent opportunity to equalise in the sixth minute of injury time when a long ball into the box was dropped by Saleem, and Zayed’s header was cleared off the line by Saeed. The ball fell to Rabee’a al Laafi, who spooned his effort way over the bar.
Sudan held on for a priceless victory, as the Libyans looked dejected by such a humiliating defeat. Jordan, who defeated Palestine 4-1 in the later fixture in the group, face Sudan on Wednesday afternoon, with Libya playing the Palestinians in a must-win fixture.
In the same group, Jordan went top of Group C with a 4-1 win over Palestine.
A 14th-minute goal from Rakan Bani-Khaled and two from Salem Abdullah, one a penalty, put the two-times gold medallists 3-0 up, although Ashraf Alfawaghra pulled one back for Palestine before halftime.
Hamza Al Daradreh sealed the three points for Jordan with a fourth goal seven minutes from the end.