Runners-up medal for Reds youngster Hannibal

Saturday 18 December 2021 17:40

The biggest game of Hannibal's burgeoning career so far may have ended in disappointment for the young Manchester United midfielder, but he will still return home from the 2021 Arab Cup final in Qatar with a runners-up medal in his luggage.

The 18-year-old wore the no.10 shirt for Tunisia, as they lost 2-0 to Algeria, for whom Amir Sayoud and Yacini Brahimi scored in each half of extra-time.

Sayoud finally broke the deadlock in the 99th minute, as the no.8's left-foot strike from the edge of the penalty area bent its way into the top left-hand corner.

Brahimi's goal in injury time was just as extraordinary but for different reasons; he raced from the halfway line to guide the ball into an empty net with the other 21 players, including opposition keeper Mouez Hassen, trailing a long way behind him when Tunisia's desperate last corner was smashed clear.

The game was staged in an electric atmosphere at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor City, where the opening fixture of next year's World Cup finals will be held. The host nation, Qatar, finished third in the Arab Cup by beating Egypt 5-4 on penalties, after their play-off earlier in the day ended 0-0.
An aerial view of the action at Al Bayt Stadium in Qatar.
Hannibal almost earned an early penalty for Tunisia in the final when he was brought down by Ilyes Cheti after dragging the ball away from him inside the area. However, a VAR check ruled in favour of the Algeria defender.

Bilel Ifa headed against the bar for Hannibal's side and Naim Sliti also went close to giving them the lead but his fellow no.23, Algeria's captain and veteran goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi, tipped his fizzing shot over the bar. In response, Tayeb Meziani should have put Algeria in front when he sidefooted wide from six yards out.

Towards the end of a feisty first half, a skirmish between multiple players, during which Hannibal was grabbed by the throat, led to a handful of yellow cards being dished out by German referee Daniel Siebert. Fortunately for Tunisia, Seifeddine Jaziri escaped a possible dismissal following a VAR check.
VAR also came to Tunisia's rescue shortly after the restart when Mohammed Belaili's cross from the right struck the arm of defender Montassar Talbi. Algeria appealed strongly for a penalty but Seibert's colleagues declined to give it after scrutinising the video replays.

Chances were scarce in the second half as the two North African sides slugged it out but a lack of real excitement failed to dampen the enthusiasm of both sets of supporters, who provided a raucous and passionate backing throughout.

The Tunisian fans, for example, gave Hannibal a huge ovation when he was substituted in the 88th minute, replaced by Ben Romdhane. It was the first change of personnel by coach Adel Sellimi and it was almost followed by the first goal that the occasion was crying out for; Jaziri's shot, after he was played in behind the Algeria defence, whistled just wide.

This 10th Arab Cup final therefore went to extra-time and was effectively settled by that stunning 99th-minute strike from Sayoud, before Brahimi made absolutely sure with the remarkable last kick of the game.
Algeria's subs join in the celebrations for Sayoud's superb strike.

Hannibal, who last played for the Reds in last month's UEFA Youth League win over Villarreal in Spain, started all six games at the tournament for Tunisia.

As well as the final, he also played in the Group B encounters with Mauritania (5-1), Syria (0-2) and United Arab Emirates (1-0), the quarter-final victory over Oman (2-1) and the semi-final clash with Egypt (1-0).

Tunisia have also qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations, which is due to be held in Cameroon from 9 January to 6 February 2022.