Qatar’s Al Sadd will play Barcelona in the semi-finals of the Club World Cup after the Asian champions stunned Esperance of Tunisia 2-1 on Sunday, sparking fan violence and a pitch invasion.
Newly crowned Japanese champions Kashiwa Reysol will play Santos in the other semi as they beat Monterrey of Mexico on penalties in front of a crowd of 27,525, after the game ended 1-1 after 120 minutes.
Al Sadd’s win means Asian teams have won all five meetings against African opposition at the intercontinental tournament, but more importantly the Qataris will now test themselves against the sublime Catalans on Thursday.
The other major talking point will be how an irate Esperance fan managed to jump the barrier by the pitch and make for Al Sadd goalkeeper Mohamed Saqr before being dragged to the ground just feet away from him.
There were several other disturbances in the stands at the state-of-the-art Toyota Stadium in Japan at the end of an entertaining game, as furious Esperance followers clashed with police and stewards.
Esperance supporters and players were left seething at Chilean referee Enrique Osses after they had two “goals” ruled out for offside and had a strong claim for a penalty, all in the dying minutes.
The Africans’ coach Nabil Maaloul apologised for the violence.
“I’m really sorry. Sometimes that happens. Tunisia and Al Sadd are sisters, but of course this should not happen,” he said.
Al Sadd’s Uruguayan coach Jorge Fossati was more focused on Barcelona, saying it was a “dream” to take on the European champions.
“This victory tonight was a milestone,” Fossati said. “This was really important, not just for me, but for the players.
“Barcelona are the best team in the world and it will be the most difficult challenge in the players’ career.”
Spurred on by their small but rowdy following, the Tunisians had the better of the opening 20 minutes and striker Yannick Ndjeng came within a whisker of scoring the opener when his cross-shot pinged off a post.
But the Qataris took a shock lead in the 33rd minute.
With Esperance sleeping, former Lyon forward Abdul Kader Keita unleashed a powerful shot that goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifia could only flap at, allowing Khalfan Al Khalfan to steam in and head into an empty net.
It was Al Sadd’s first attempt on goal and typical of the kind of sucker-punch that they perfected in their unexpected run to the Asian Champions League title.
Esperance looked shocked going into the break, but just four minutes after half-time Africa’s finest found themselves further behind — once again caught napping at a set-piece.
Former Portsmouth man Nadir Belhadj swept in a free-kick that South Korean Lee Jung-Soo headed back across goal, and there, totally unmarked, was his fellow defender and captain Abdullah Koni to gleefully score from close range.
But on the hour Esperance, who like Al Sadd were making their debut at the Club World Cup, struck back when the highly rated Ousama Darragi headed past an unsighted Saqr from another set-piece.
With minutes left on the clock Oualid Hichri shot tamely at Saqr when he should have scored.
Also in Toyota, in the second game of the day, Kashiwa, fresh from their first J-League title, took an undeserved lead when Brazilian Leandro Domingues volleyed in spectacularly from close range on 53 minutes.
But the CONCACAF champions were level five minutes later as Chilean striker Humberto Suazo thumped the ball in when unmarked in the six-yard box, to the delight of about 100 Monterrey fans decked out in green behind the goal.
Substitute Ryohei Hayashi was the hero for the home side, as he confidently tucked away the winning penalty to make it 4-3.
Kashiwa’s Brazilian coach Nelsinho, a former Santos player and coach, said his side had nothing to fear from Wednesday’s game.
“This is going to be as a team — especially for the young players — a great experience,” said the man who has transformed Kashiwa from second-tier also-rans to the best team in Japan.
“We respect Santos but I think that we can be equal to them.”