Al Sadd maintained their stronghold on Al Duhail as they beat their perennial rivals 1-0 to clinch the Sheikh Jassim Cup Saturday. Ali Asad scored the all-important goal in the 13th minute but it was Akram Afif who was the star of the show as he spearheaded Sadd’s dominating performance at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium.
The win also ensured a brilliant start to Xavi’s managerial career as the Spaniard won his first title as coach. Last week, he had led Sadd to quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League with a 4-2 aggregate win over Duhail. Sadd now have won the Sheikh Jassim Cup 15 times, more than anyone in history, and it was also their record 70th overall trophy.
Goal-scorer Asad was delighted to have played a key role in Sadd’s victory. “It is a good start to the season. This trophy will provide us with plenty of confidence as we approach the QNB Stars League and AFC Champions League matches,” he said.
“Although we had many opportunities, we could not convert them into goals. But the most important thing is to win the match, which we did. Now we will work hard to win many more titles,” he added.
Duhail coach Rui Faria watched in frustration from the sidelines as his team wasted plenty of chances in the first 10 minutes of the contest. Iraqi prodigy Mohanad Ali, who arrived from Al Shorta this summer, had a golden chance to put Duhail ahead in the ninth minute, but for a brilliant last-ditch effort from Sadd defender Boualem Khoukhi.
While Sadd goalkeeper Saad al-Sheeb was kept busy by impressive Edmilson Junior and Mohanad, it was Sadd who went ahead with a brilliant counterattack. Akram, who has been in prolific perform of late, was instrumental in creating the winning goal for Sadd. One of the brightest prospects in Qatari football, Akram dribbled around three Duhail defenders with ease as he set up an easy tap in for Asad.
In the 30th minute, Akram created another opportunity but this time Pedro failed to shoot with precision as Duhail goalkeeper Claude Amine made a regulation save. Two minutes later, Akram had a chance to get into scoresheet but the 22-year-old failed to connect an easy volley.
Sadd had more opportunities in the 35th and 43rd minute to increase the lead, but Hassan al-Haydos and Asad shot wide, even as Duhail struggled to string any scoring opportunities.
Post interval, Sadd continued to dominate the possession as Duhail players were left increasingly frustrated. With chances coming far and few for Duhail in attack, Amine kept his team in the match with a timely save off al-Haydos’ fierce strike in the 60th minute. In the ensuing counterattack, Duhail squandered an opportunity to draw level as Mohanad shot into the stands.
The introduction of Nam Tae-hee, who swapped Duhail for Sadd over the summer, in the 63rd minute added more trouble for his former team. The South Korean playmaker along with Akram was a constant threat.
It only got worse for Duhail in the 67th minute, as experienced Luiz Junior was sent off for stamping into Salem al-Hajri’s thigh. Though unintentional, Luiz was shown a second yellow card after the referee took the help of VAR.
Meanwhile, Akram’s elder sibling Ali Afif came close to drawing level, but again sloppy finishing did not help Duhail’s cause. Meanwhile, Edmilson was lucky to stay on the pitch as a cynical foul on Sadd captain Gabi went unpunished.
Despite being reduced to 10 men, Duhail could have taken the game into penalties with Mohamed Muntari presented with the best chance. But the substitute’s clumsy effort was cleared by Pedro.
In the injury time, Duhail defender Assim Madibo was sent off for a lunging foul on Gabi, making it a forgettable night for Faria and his men.
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