13 Feb 2020
Doha, 13 February 2020. Aspire Academy made a winning start in their opening match of the 9th edition of the Al Kass International Cup, with a solid 3-1 victory over South Korean side Suwon Samsung.
The hosts had to come from behind after Suwon captain Seongho headed in the match’s first goal after 12 minutes after a fine cross by Hyeongpin Lee. Aspire responded well to the setback and were the better team for much of the half. They deservedly equalized on 31 minutes when Yousef Elkhatib drove home a low right-foot shot after Sewon goalkeeper saved the shot from Jassem Alsharshani onto the upright post.
Aspire were in ascendancy from then on and dully took the lead on 52nd minutes following a defense-splitting pass from Mahdi Almejaba, and it was no more than head coach Luca Nardi’s side deserved. Victory was made sure for Aspire courtesy of the third goal scored by substitute Abdulaziz Al-Naimi three minutes from the end when he glanced home much to the delight of the home crowd and fans.
It was a deserved win for Aspire, who had former Australian international and FIFA 2022 ambassador Tim Cahill among their coaches. Speaking after the match, Cahill said “We completed a month of preparing with the team, and we’ve had some good games, and camps here, in Italy and Oman. The boys were good right from the start and well organized, but it’s also how we reacted. We stuck together as a team and I’m very proud of the team.”
Meanwhile Suwon Samsung Team Manager Chang Young Hong shared his views after the match saying, “The first half went well and as planned but the second half there was a little more pressure and players were a bit nervous. For the next game, the first thing we must do is prepare well, both mentally and physically. We will try hard to dominate the game. While many teams are here looking to win, we are looking to gain experience from the playing against teams and players with high standards so when we go back, we will start the season playing a good game against teams in Korea.”
In their second group match, Aspire Academy is facing defending Al Kass-champion Rangers FC on Monday, February 17, at 4:45pm.