Xavi skippers Al Sadd to glory in dramatic Emir Cup final
A last ditch winner gave Al Sadd, captained by Barça legend Xavi Hernandez, victory in the Emir Cup final on Friday, Qatar's biggest domestic cup competition.
Maiden game in Qatar's Khalifa International Stadium
The match was played in the newly refurbished Khalifa International Stadium, the first 2022 World Cup venue to be completed. And among those watching in the 40,000-seater air-conditioned stadium was FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
Xavi set up Jugurtha Hamroun to rifle home the winning strike in injury time, capping a memorable 2-1 victory for Al Sadd against rivals Al Rayyan, coached by another former Barcelona great, Michael Laudrup. Al Rayyan had taken the lead early in the second half when skipper Rodrigo Tabata scored just four minutes after the restart. But just seven minutes later, Al Sadd's Hassan Al-Haydous levelled from the penalty spot to set up the thrilling finale to the game. This was Al Sadd's second domestic cup win of the season having won the Qatar Cup last month, and the 16th time they have won the Emir Cup, a national record.
In a break in the celebrations, proud captain Xavi told Al Sadd’s web site: “This win is the result of the efforts of the whole group, from every member of this team. We are happy with this win over Al-Rayyan in the final. Al-Rayyan played a great match; in fact a great season and they are one of the best teams in Qatar. It means alot to end the season with such an important triumph”.
Apart from the final, the stadium proved a big draw in itself. Khalifa is the first World Cup venue to be completed, five years ahead of the tournament, and it will also host the 2019 World Athletics Championship. It cost an estimated 82 million euros to refit and is part of a budget of up to $10 billion Qatar is spending on stadiums and training grounds for 2022.
Khalifa comes complete with the much-talked-about cooling technology that was central to Qatar's bid for the World Cup. It was in use on Friday, keeping fans cool as temperatures reached 35 degrees Celsius before kick-off.
The stadium was officially inaugurated by Qatar's leader, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani before the match. "In the name of all Arabs, I announce the readiness of Khalifa Stadium for hosting games at the 2022 World Cup," he told the crowd.