REIGNING champions Al Najma entered the semifinals of the King's Soccer Cup after defeating second division club Al Malkiya 2-1 in an extra-time thriller last night.
Ahmed Yousif gave Al Malkiya the lead early in the match, played at the Muharraq Club Stadium in Arad. However, French defender Benoit Croissant inspired Al Najma to vicory, scoring two goals.
In the semifinal, Al Najma will take on Riffa, who recorded an unconvincing 1-0 victory over second-division team Galali yesterday at the Al Ahli Club Stadium in Mahooz.
Recently-signed Jordanian striker Awad Ragheb scored the only goal for the three-time champions in the 22nd minute.
In yesterday's top match, Al Najma turned the tables on their opponents and kept alive their chances of retaining the trophy for the third successive time.
Despite the absence of captain and key player Jaffer Darwish, who is serving a one-match ban, Al Malkiya started the match on a high note, taking the lead after 12 minutes.
Striker Zuhair Darwish unleashed a powerful long-range shot which came off Al Najma's defence to unmarked Ahmed Yousif who fired past Al Najma's goalkeeper and captain Abdulrahman Abdulkarim.
Al Najma gradually came back into the match and managed to make some serious inroads by their Siera Leonean midfielder Alhaj Sesay, midfielders Salem Mousa and Ali Saeed and striker Rashid Jamal.
Their efforts finally paid off in the 35th minute when Jamal broke through on the right flank and crossed the ball towards 26-year-old Croissant who beat Al Malkiya's goalkeeper Sayed Jaffer Habib with a well-placed shot.
Al Najma dominated most of the second-half but failed to find the back of the net as the match was extended into two 15-minute extra-time periods.
However, Creso Senad's side eventually clinched the winner two minutes before the end of the first extra-time thanks to Croissant whose header crossed the goal line.
Aiming to maintain their lead, Al Najma went back to defend their area in the second extra-time period, allowing Al Malkiya to create some serious inroads.
Al Najma suffered a setback in the closing stages when substitute midfielder Hamad Salman was shown the red card by referee Hussain Abdulaziz for his second bookable offence.
But, Al Malkiya failed to take advantage as Al Najma defended well to survive the scare.
The remaining two quarter-final matches are scheduled for today. At the Muharraq Club Stadium, Busaiteen will take on Al Hidd while 12-time champions Muharraq clash with Al Ahli at the National Stadium in the top clash. Both matches will kick off at 6pm.