By Sports Reporter/Doha
Al Sadd secured an astonishing 3-2 comeback win over Al Arabi in an electrifying Qatar Derby to maintain their unbeaten status in the QNB Stars League at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium yesterday. Xavi Hernandez’s men were just minutes away from suffering their first loss of the season, but Baghdad Bounedjah equalised in the 90th minute before Santi Cazorla’s thunderbolt strike two minutes later gave them a remarkable victory.
Table toppers Al Sadd now need just one win from the five remaining matches to wrap up the title. The Wolves have 47 points from 17 matches, 13 more than their fierce rivals Al Duhail, who beat Al Gharafa 2-1 yesterday.
“It was a crazy match and we deserved to win. We respect Al Arabi team a lot, but they relied on time wasting throughout the match. Therefore, winning in the last minutes was well deserved,” a delighted Xavi said.
“In the first half we did not play well and this gave Al Arabi the advantage. But our performance improved in the second half and we succeeded in achieving victory. I am proud of my players’ performance, especially in the second half. We have achieved an amazing victory. We have not lost yet this season and we need one victory to win the QNB Stars League,” the Al Sadd coach said.
Al Arabi, who were without coach Heimir Hallgrimsson in the dugout after the Icelander tested positive for coronavirus, went ahead after Sebastian Soria’s found the net in the 10th minute. Rodrigo Tabata equalised for Al Sadd in the 63rd minute but Youssef Msakni restored the lead for Arabi in the 77th minute. The Dream Team, who had not lost since their defeat to Al Sadd in the Amir Cup final two months ago, looked like securing a famous win before Bounedjah and Cazorla broke their hearts.
Al Sadd had more of the ball in the first half with 61 per cent even though Al Arabi took the half-time break with a 1-0 lead. The fast-paced game saw both teams attack from the word go and Al Arabi shocked Al Sadd with an early goal, with Soria heading in a measured cross from the right by Mehrdad Mohammadi. In fact, Mehrdad gave the assist for their second goal as well with a through pass that was translated into goal by Msakni with a long-range shot. Al Arabi were a determined lot, just like they performed against Al Sadd in the 2019-20 season Amir Cup final before going down fighting.
On the half-hour mark, Msakni was just thwarted by Al Sadd goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham. At the other end, Bounedjah thrice and his teammate Nam Tae-Hee once missed the target. Action continued to be hot in the second half and Cazorla hit a grounder against the right upright in the 54th minute. Soon, Al Sadd captain Hassan al-Haydous’ shot was blocked by Al Arabi goalkeeper Mahmoud Abunada and Bounedjah hit one wide of the target.
Tabata drew level for Al Sadd by placing the ball home in a goalmouth melee, with Nam doing the spadework along the left goalline. After Msakni took Al Arabi ahead for a second time, Al Sadd did not lose heart and their concerted efforts bore fruit when Bounedjah headed home Guilherme Torres’ long cross from the right. Cazorla sealed the issue in favour of Al Sadd by firing in a missile as a thriller came to a close.
Earlier, Al Duhail edged past Al Gharafa 2-1 at the Suheim Bin Hamad stadium. Mohamed Muntari (19th minute) and Dudu (44th minute) scored for Duhail, while Jonathan Kodjia (24th minute) struck one for Al Gharafa from the penalty spot. The Red Knights consolidated their second spot with 34 points, while Al Gharafa stayed on 27 points. As Duhail got off to a fast start, Michael Olunga was on target early when he headed the ball past Al Gharafa goalkeeper Yousef Hassan in a third-minute corner kick. But referee Abdulhadi al-Ruaile, after consulting with VAR, disallowed the Kenyan striker’s goal, declaring Sultan al-Brake offside.
Olunga got another opportunity to score after a fine ball from Assim Madibo, but he hit the ball wide from a difficult angle as the clock reached the double figures.
Al Gharafa too created chances that included their 17th minute attack when Kodjia stormed near the danger area, but Al Duhail defenders were well in time to thwart him. Just a few moments later, Al Duhail went ahead when Muntari, unmarked near the penalty area, fired a left-footed shot into the net following a corner kick by Dudu.
However, Al Gharafa did not have to wait much to find an equaliser as they won a penalty after al-Brake committed a foul against Homam al-Ameen near the goal post. Kodjia hit a confident low shot from the spot, firing the ball past a diving goalkeeper Salah Zakaria.
Five minutes before half-time, referee Alasmar reversed his decision of awarding another penalty to Kodjia following Al Brake’s challenge against him – after checking with VAR.
In the penultimate minute of the first half, Brazilian Dudu put Al Duhail in the lead again with a header from close range after a fine cross following an attack from the left flank.
Al Gharafa, aiming to bounce back, made a fiery attack in stoppage time, but the rival goalkeeper made a flying save from Adlene Guedioura’s bullet from near the penalty area to keep Sabri Lamouchi-coached side in lead at half-time. The second session started in similar fashion, with both sides creating opportunities to score. Kodjia and Dudu both came close to scoring their second goal during the exchanges, but none of the teams succeeded in finding a goal in the second half as Al Duhail emerged as victorious.
Later, Al Rayyan eased past Al Kharaitiyat 3-0. Gabriel Mercado (45), Naif al-Hadhrami (52nd minute) and Yacine Brahimi (85th minute) scored the goals for Al Rayyan, who climbed to third with 28 points. Al Kharaitiyat remain at the bottom of the table with six points.
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