MENA Sports Wrap: Qatar triumph over Jordan, claim back-to-back Asian Cup titles
All focus was on Doha as Qatar and Jordan contested an all-Arab final in the Asian Cup in Lusail on Saturday, with the hosts emerging as 3-1 winners thanks to three penalties from player of the tournament Akram Afif.
The Qataris have clinched their second Asia Cup in a row in what was a flawless run to the final for the The Maroons.
It was also an all-Arab showdown in the quarter-finals of the Abu Dhabi Open on Friday, where Tunisia's tennis star Ons Jabeur was reduced to tears after an injury during her loss to Beatriz Haddad Maia, a Brazilian of Lebanese descent.
Qatar triumph over Jordan in all-Arab Asian Cup final
Akram Afif was the hero for the hosts, scoring a hat-trick of penalties to see off underdogs Jordan, who shocked football fans with their 2-0 victory over tournament favourites South Korea in the semi-final.
Playing in their first Asian Cup final in front of close to 90,000 fans against the tournament hosts, Jordan seemed slightly overawed by the scale of the occasion, with Qatar dominating the ball.
Things went from bad to worse for the Jordanians when in the 22nd minute Afif was downed in the box by Abdallah Nasib after running on to a dangerous pass from Lucas Mendes.
The Al Sadd winger stepped up and calmly slotted the ball into the bottom corner from the penalty spot to give the Qataris a well-deserved 1-0 lead going into halftime.
Jordan, known to their fans as "Al-Nashama" (The Chivalrous), improved in the second half, culminating in Yazan Al-Naimat thundering a strike past Qatari keeper Meshaal Barsham.
However, the game was only level for six minutes before Afif once again converted from the spot against the run of play after winger Ismaeel Mohammad was fouled by Mahmoud Al-Mardi.
Despite Jordan arguably being the better side in the second half, and despite their hopes of an equaliser being raised by a whopping 13 minutes of injury time, hope was effectively lost when in the 95th minute the video assistant referee awarded Qatar their third penalty of contest when Afif was brought down by goalkeeper Yazeed Abulaila after beating Jordan's offside trap.
True to form, Afif kept his composure and completed his hat-trick of penalties, prompting the jubilant Qatari fans to unfurl a huge banner showing the 2019 winners with the words "2023 Loading".
"I congratulate the Qatari people and players. We're so happy after winning this difficult game, the tension was high," Qatar's head coach Tintin Lopez told reporters.
"Maybe we didn't play beautiful football today but everyone remembers the winner."
Jordan's coach Hussein Ammouta took heart from the team's run in the tournament despite losing the final.
"We weren't focused in the first half and we made mistakes. There were easy opportunities to score but we didn't. The timing of the two penalties (in the second half) was harsh," Ammouta said.
"But I want to congratulate the players. They've gained confidence and opened horizons for the future. Maybe we can win in future tournaments."
Jabeur left in tears against Brazilian-Lebanese opponent
Tunisian tennis star Ons Jabeur faced a Brazilian opponent of Lebanese descent in the quarter-finals of the Abu Dhabi Open on Friday.
After a convincing win over the UK's Emma Raducanu, Jabeur, ranked number 6 in the world, struggled against Beatriz Haddad Maia losing the first set 6-3.
By the second set, Jabeur was in tears as she struggled against the Brazilian and tried hard to regain her composure.
"Ons Jabeur in tears here," said commentator Mikey Perera.
"We did suspect something was up. No idea what though," responded Anne Keothavong.
Both concluded that the 29-year-old was suffering an injury, as she repeatedly clutched her thigh.
She struggled on but lost the second set 6-3, ending her run in the Abu Dhabi Open.
Haddad Maia had nothing but kind words for her opponent: "Ons, as everybody knows, she’s a very nice person, a very important player for women’s tennis. She represents us very well. So first of all I respect her a lot because of that."
Jabeur has repeatedly voiced support for the people of Gaza and donated part of her WTA Finals winnings to Palestinians there.