Baku, May 18, AZERTAC
Hosts Azerbaijan sealed their place in the final of the 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games football tournament as they saw off Algeria 2-0 in Thursday's first semi-final.
Just before the break, captain Ruslan Abishov headed home a Mahir Madatov free-kick to score the first goal of a tightly-contested game at the Dalga Arena.
Magsad Isayev added another on the hour mark to send Algeria packing.
The home team will face the winner of the other semi, Cameroon or Oman, in the final at the Tofiq Bahramov Stadium, where the bronze-medal match will also be held.
Against a solid and experienced Azeri side, who have yet to concede a goal in the tournament, the north Africans started the game nervously, as both Abderrahim Hamra and Zakari Naidji received yellow cards in the opening 15 minutes.
The young Desert Foxes had the best chances with a nice early volley by Naidji and a long distance attempt by Farid El Melali that rattled the crossbar in the 35th minute.
A few minutes earlier, the deft Melali had made the best of a defensive mishap to launch a pacy counter-attack but, as he faced Shakhrudin Magomedaliev, hesitated between shooting and passing to Abderrahim Amhra and ended up doing neither.
Azerbaijan also had their fair share of chances as Elshan Abdullayev couldn't find the target from outside the box and Madatov failed to convert a mistake by Chamseddine Rahmani.
But it was Abishov who got the Azeris' first shot on target with a fine header with three minutes to play before half-time.
The 29-year-old defender should have added a second when he found himself alone with the ball at the far post but failed to control it.
His disappointment didn't last however, as young right-back Isayev found the back of the net in the 58th minute with a cross-shot following a corner.
Once again, Azerbaijan kept a clean sheet, their fourth of the tournament, and could rely on their solid back four to see off the skilled Algerians.
As the clock ticked down, tempers flew and Algeria's Tayeb Meziani, Ahmed Gagaa, Youced Douar and Mohamed Naoufel Khacef, as well as Vugar Mustafayev and Tellur Mutallimov of Azerbaijan, were all warned by the Ukrainian referee.
Not even Ismail Saadi's attempt with 12 minutes to go could change the outcome as Azerbaijan booked their place in the final and a chance to claim their first football gold.
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