Al Gharafa scored a thrilling 3-2 win over Al Duhail, rallying from a goal down, in a high-voltage clash in Week 4 of 2023-2024 season Expo Stars League at the Al Bayt Stadium yesterday.
The architect of the hard-fought victory for The Cheetahs was their captain Yacine Brahimi, who was instrumental in all three goals – striking in two from dead ball strikes – and scoring a last-gasp winner with a precision kick.
While Mohamed Muntari (41st minute) and Almoez Ali (90+3 minute) scored for Al Duhail, Yacine Brahimi (47th minute and 90+8 minute) and Yohan Boli (75th minute) got the goals for Al Gharafa.
Al Gharafa seemed headed for a win at full time before the added time saw more frenetic action as The Red Knights skipper Almoez Ali found the equaliser. But playing with a man down in the final 30 minutes seemed to have taken a toll on Al Duhail, who lost Ruben Semedo in the 65th minute after he fouled a rival player and was given the marching orders.
The high intensity match saw some heated moments as the players clashed while going for hard tackles.
Al Gharafa had begun in earnest and threatened Al Duhail’s goal several times in the first half hour.
In the very fourth minute of play, Al Gharafa showed good formation and cohesion, and Brahimi moved in dangerously to strike, but hit the outside of the left net.
In the 20th minute, Al Gharafa’s Farid Boulaya made a powerful kick from the centre, but Al Duhail goalkeeper Salah Hassan dived in time to parry the ball away. Five minutes later, there was another scare for Al Duhail as Boli’s curling kick went on to hit the left post. The chance was produced after Boulaya had latched on to a defensive lapse of Al Duhail.
Boli made another attempt in the 31st minute, but he had moved too deep and the angle was acute and he shot wide.
Al Duhail then took control as Almoez initiated a move sending the ball down the left for a swift Sultan al-Breik to run in and send in a perfect cross for a waiting Muntari in front of the goal to do the needful.
The holders, however, could not hold on to the lead for long as six minutes later Brahimi unveiled his first magic of the match with a free kick. His perfect execution saw the ball move over the ‘wall’ and into the far left corner of the goal leaving the goalkeeper bamboozled (1-1).
Brahimi almost repeated his act late in the second session and with a dead ball kick but this time he shot to the left of the Al Duhail goalkeeper Salah Zakaria who dived to make a stop but the bouncing ball was pounced on by an onrushing Boli to score (2-1).
It was excitement galore for the fans as the added time brought out more intense action as a possessed Almoez Ali, given a fine ball from near the centre line by Ismail Mohamed, dashed in from the left dribbling past a defender and to shoot between the legs of Al Gharafa goalkeeper Yousef Hassan (2-2).
All of Al Gharafa’s good work seemed to have been spoiled by Almoez, but there was more to come. Making the most of tired legs, and a valuable diagonal pass from Lyanco Vojnovic, an unmarked Brahimi shot from the left leaning into the ball and past the rival goalkeeper to send his team’s coach, support staff and the fans into a frenzy.
It was Brahimi’s seventh goal of the new season and brought up Al Gharafa’s third win. They have 10 points to their credit, while Al Duhail stood on seven points.
In other matches, Al Wakrah beat Al Markhiya 3-0 after goals from Hamdi Fathy (10), Jacinto Dala (55) and Yousef Al Khatib (88) at Al Janoub Stadium while Muaither and Al Shamal played out a 2-2 draw. The goals for Muaither were scored by Guy Mbenza (59) and Andri Syahputra (84).
The scorers for Al Shamal were Mohamed Omar (69) and Ricardo Gomes (90+3) at Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium.