DOHA (Reuters) – Youcef Belaili scored 17 minutes into stoppage time as Algeria beat Arab Cup hosts Qatar 2-1 in a dramatic end to Wednesday’s second semi-final to set up a final against neighbours Tunisia.
Belaili had a penalty saved but was quickest to the rebound to earn Algeria victory in a bizarre conclusion to a game they looked to have wrapped up, but which changed complexion after the referee from Poland added nine minutes of stoppage time at the Al Thumama Stadium.
Algeria were leading 1-0 and looked to be comfortably through before a stunning header from substitute Mohamed Muntari brought Qatar level six minutes into added time.
The goal was confirmed after a VAR check but the Algerians continued to protest, claiming a push in the build-up, and were handed several cautions.
Algeria won the decisive penalty when Yacine Brahimi was tripped by Abdulaziz Hatem and referee Szymon Marciniak eventually allowed 19 minutes of added time before ending the match.
Algeria’s opening goal came from defender Djamel Benlamri, who got a slight deflection to a long-range effort by team mate Hocine Benayada in the 59th minute
Playing without any of their large contingent of European-based players, Algeria will face Tunisia in Saturday’s final at the Al Bayt Stadium as Qatar test out their venues and organisation ahead of next year’s World Cup.
They had also been hoping the Arab Cup would show the fruits an extensive period of preparation for their national team, who competed at the Copa America and Concacaf Gold Cup after winning the 2019 Asian Cup and had several friendlies against European opposition this year.
But they fell short of expectations in front of some 40,000 spectators despite the late effort from Ghana-born Muntari, which handed them a short-lived lifeline.
Tunisia earlier edged Egypt 1-0 thanks to a last-gasp own goal in the first semi-final.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Ed Osmond)