Al Sadd players and officials celebrate after winning the Sheikh Jassim Cup, beating Lekhwiya 3-2, at the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha yesterday. PICTURES: Jayan Orma
The title song of the popular sitcom Friends has the line - It’s like you are always stuck in second gear... And yesterday that best described the state of play during the 2014 Sheikh Jassim Cup which was held at the Abdullah bin Khalifa stadium. Played between home side Lekhwiya and Al Sadd, the game was played at a controlled pace because of the high levels of humidity. But at the final whistle it was Sadd who came from behind to emerge victorious 3-2, thanks to a second-half brace from their new Brazilian signing Luiz Muriqi.
Humidity was a major factor in the stop-start nature of the game. Also considering that this was the first game of the season, the players too were finding their bearings. But all said and done, Sadd now have back to back domestic trophies after having won the Emir Cup at the end of last season.
Sadd coach Hussein Ammouta was happy that his team had come off with a win, without any injuries and having Muriqi gel so quickly with the team. “The players were in good shape today after a successful summer training camp. The positives of the match were that Muriqi was able to fit in with the team quickly and was able to make us favourites to win the match. Winning the cup tonight will give the players a boost ahead of the match against Al Hilal,” said Ammouta yesterday.
Lekhwiya’s newly-appointed coach Michael Laudrup was denied a fairy tale beginning to his stint. But he preferred to look at the positive side of things. “We could have had more chances for more goals (both teams) so I think it was a good start to this season for everybody. Of course we would have liked to win this game, but it was good for me to see some players who are new in the first eleven. But now we’re prepared to start the league as we’ve got everybody back from injury so we’re ready to start next week,” said Laudrup.
The initial part of the game saw both teams trying to find their feet. And it was Sadd who got an early lead in the eighth minute through Rodrigo Tabata who blasted a freekick into the bottom left corner to give his team the lead.
But that joy was short-lived as just two minutes later Lekhwiya’s Yousseff Msakni was adjudged to have been brought down by Almahdi Ali in the box. Vladimir Weiss stepped up and slotted in the equaliser.
Lekhwiya then had a period of domination which saw the game being largely played in the Sadd half. The Wolves got a good chance to go into the lead in the 25th minute when Tabata was released after a good run by Hassan al-Haydos but the Brazilian fired wide.
After this burst of activity, the game settled back into the largely prevalent lazy tone. In fact, the game was stuck in second gear till as far as the second drinks break in the 60th minute. Three minutes after the break Tabata, got another great chance after he dribbled past a defender and got himself into a scoring position but his final shot was just wide. Closer than before but no cigar.
Four minutes later it was Lekhwiya who woke up with Msakni getting a loose ball and setting off on a run which saw him having just the goalkeeper to beat but instead hit straight at him.
But luckily for him, Lekhiwya didn’t have to rue that missed chance so much as in the 70th minute, Weiss put through a clever ball to Hussain Ali Shihab who passed to Msakni and this time the striker didn’t make a mistake and scored with a simple tap in.
Lekhwiya were in the lead and looked comfortable holding off Sadd. But in the 78th minute al-Haydos was brought down inside the box and Sadd had a penalty. Substitute Luiz Muriqi stepped up and scored from the spot. The Wolves were back on level and this goal got them to move up a gear and increase their attacks.
And they were rewarded in the 84th minute when Muriqi was able to take advantage of a deflected ball from the corner and tapped it in to give his team the lead.
The Brazilian has been a high profile signing for Sadd and they will be happy with his performance yesterday.
The game ended on a sour note when Weiss was given a red card for arguing with the referee after the final whistle was blown. A needless rush of blood from the winger.
Sadd coach Ammouta had said before the game that given an option he would have hoped to rest most of his key players for this game, considering the bigger game coming up.
But after the end of the game, as he was being vaulted into the air by his players, he will have felt that he did end up doing a good job of fielding a relatively strong team.
And more importantly, his players can feed off the optimism going into their crucial quarter-final.
Laudrup will be hoping that his injured players get match fit soon so that he can mount a strong challenge during the upcoming Qatar Stars League season.
But for now, it will be Sadd who will be celebrating having kick-started this football season with a bang.
1) QFA president Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed al-Thani greets Lekhwiya’s Ali Afif after the match.
2) Referee hands out a red card to Lekhwiya’s Vladimir Weiss after the final whistle.
3) Al Sadd coach Hussein Ammouta.
4) Lekhwiya coach Michael Laudrup.
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