Up, Above the World, So high: Teammates throw Al Sadd captain Raul in the air in jubilation after winning the QSL title yesterday. Right: Al Sadd coach Hussein Amotta flashes the victory sign. PICTURES: Noushad Thekkayil
By Anil John/Doha
Fans were dancing in the aisles as Al Sadd beat Al Kharatiyat 3-1 to wrap up the Qatar Stars League title at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium yesterday.
Abdulkarim Hassan scored a second-half brace as the Wolves bagged their 13th league crown, bouncing back from a goal down in a match they only needed to draw in order to secure the title.
But despite the scoreline, Al Sadd owed their success yesterday to a huge slice of luck, their equaliser coming courtesy of an own goal by Al Kharatiyat’s Turki Aman, who deflected a Raul Gonzalez header into the net off a pass from Khalfan Ibrahim in the 53rd minute.
Hassan then found the target in the 58th and 70th minutes to seal the issue against a team who were determined to spoil Al Sadd’s party yet again. It was Al Kharatiyat, afterall, who had stopped Al Sadd’s nine-match record winning streak in the QSL by holding them to a draw when they clashed earlier in the tournament.
“We never doubted our abilities even when we suffered some unexpected reverses in January and February,” Al Sadd’s Moroccan coach Hussein Amotta said after the match.
“We had players who are devoted and committed to the Al Sadd cause who always believed the title was theirs. We never allowed self-doubt to creep in. That’s what makes a great team,” the 43-year-old added.
Al Sadd faced a tricky situation before the match even though they held a clear five-point advantage over Lekhwiya, the only other team in with a chance to win the title.
A defeat to Al Kharatiyat corresponding with a Lekhwiya win over Umm Salal would have cut down Al Sadd’s lead to two points, taking the title chase down to the last day of the tournnament on April 18.
But Al Sadd avoided such a risky scenario with a determined second-half display condemning Lekhwiya, who thrashed Umm Salal 4-1 yesterday, to the runners-up position.
Al Sadd began cautiously against Al Kharatiyat, who have earned a reputation as party-poopers with their penchant for big scalps. And Bernard Simondi’s side appeared determined to put a spanner in the Al Sadd works with their early enthusiasm.
Early in the first half, Kharataiyat midfielder Nabeel Anwar found himself with a decent opportunity to score but his cracking drive from just oustide the penalty area skimmed the post.
A couple of defensive lapses on Al Sadd also went unpunished before Al Kharatiyat had their first real scare, with goalkeeper Khalifa Abubaker having to dive to stop a 23rd minute first-time effort from Spanish legend Raul off a Khalfan Ibrahim pass.
Al Sadd struggled to break down the hardy Al Kharatiyat defence, especially with Abubaker keeping his wits about him under tremendous pressure.
But with Al Sadd so focused on scoring, they risked counterattacks and sure enough it came in the 36th minute when a long clearance found the unmarked Alain Dioko, and the Congolese striker advanced a few steps to blast the ball straight to Al Sadd goalkeeper Saad al-Sheeb who failed to collect it properly with the result that it went under his body and into the goal.
Al Sadd almost equalised two minutes later but goalkeeper Abubaker pouched a Khalfan header off a Nadir Belhadj free-kick.
Khalfan, a former Asian Player of the Year, however, was in the thick of the action again when he chipped the ball into the penalty area from the left and Raul rose above the defence to head the ball, which took a deflection off Aman to beat Abubaker all ends up in the 53rd minute.
Five minutes later, Ibrahim set up Al Sadd’s second goal when his measured free-kick from 30 yards out was headed in by Hassan.
Hassan then displayed tremendous anticipation to kill off the game with his first touch from inside the penalty area after Belhadj had slipped in a pass for him in the 70th minute.
Al Sadd thus buried their five-year QSL jinx yesterday, having last won the title under Uruguayan Jorge Fossati in 2007.
Meanwhile, Lekhwiya thrashed Umm Salal 4-1, while basement club Al Sailiya gave Al Gharafa a shock 4-1 thrashing.
Al Rayyan and Al Arabi, however, played out a thrilling 4-4 draw, while Qatar Sports Club thrashed El Jaish 3-0.
Team P W D L Pts
1. Al Sadd 21 16 2 3 50
2. Lekhwiya 21 14 3 4 45
3. Al Jaish 21 13 1 7 40
4. Al Rayyan 21 10 4 7 34
5. Al Khor SC 21 7 8 6 29
6. Umm Salal 21 8 4 9 28
7. Al Gharrafa 21 7 6 8 27
8. Qatar 21 7 5 9 26
9. Al Wakra 21 6 5 10 23
10. Al Kharatiyat 21 4 8 9 20
11. Al Arabi 21 3 8 10 17
12. Al Sailiya SC 21 2 4 15 10
BELOW FROM LEFT TO RIGHT:
1) Al Sadd player and officials celebrate the win with the trophy.
2) Officials and players of Al Sadd celebrate the team’s win in the Qatar Stars League at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium yesterday.
3) Raul signs an autograph for a fan after Al Sadd won the QSL yesterday.
4) Al Sadd captain Raul is handed the QSL winner’s trophy by Saoud al-Mohannadi, general secretary of the Qatar Football Association.
5) Al Sadd fans flash the ‘61’ sign during the team’s QSL match against Al Kharatiyat yesterday. The 2013 QSL title is the Wolves’ 61st title overall since the club’s formation in 1969.