By Sports Reporter/Doha
Youssef El Arabi bagged a brace as a dominant Lekhwiya claimed a 3-0 victory over Al Jazira in their 2017 AFC Champions League Group B opener at Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium yesterday.
The hosts opened the scoring 11 minutes into the game when El Arabi continued his fine goal-scoring form of late by heading in Youssef Msakni’s cross from the right from six yards, before Msakni deservedly doubled the Qatari side’s lead with 10 minutes remaining.
El Arabi then tapped in from substitute Ali Afif’s centre in added time to wrap up a comfortable victory for Lekhwiya as the Emiratis’ winless run in the continental competition stretched to eight games.
It was a clinical performance by the Qatari side who enjoyed a big share of the possession during the initial period of the match. Lekhwiya ended up with 59 per cent possession at the end of the match. There were very few occasions when Lekhiwya keeper Claude Amine was called into action. And if it weren’t for a couple of missed chances, Lekhwiya could have ended up with a bigger margin of victory.
Lekhwiya coach Djamel Belmadi will be a happy man after this confidence-boosting start for his team in this competition.
Belmadi’s boys are currently going through a mini-slump in the Qatar Stars League. In fact, they came into this match after a shocking 1-3 loss against Umm Salal in the League. This loss came after they were held by QSL defending champions Al Rayyan. Both these results, coupled with Al Sadd winning their matches, have knocked Lekhwiya off the top of the table. This win will help Lekhwiya regain their swagger and return to winning ways in the QSL too.
“Full credit to the boys. We had our issues with injury and form but they delivered when it mattered,” an elated Belmadi was quoted as saying by AFP.
“We knew that Al Jazira were on a winning streak in UAE and we were prepared to put up a fight against them, but in the end we ended up far better, “he added.
Lekhiwya will now face Saudi Arabia’s Al Fateh in an away match on February 27.
In another group B match played in Muscat, Iran’s Estehglal Kouzestan defeated Saudi Arabia’s Al Fateh 1-0, with Abolfazl Alaei’s 80th minute header clinching the winner.
Estehglal Kouzestan, who are making their Asian Champions League debut, dominated for much of the match but could only manage to breach the Al Fateh defence late in the tie when Alaei rose high to head home Peyman Shirzadi’s corner.
Rayyan face UAE’s Wahda today
Qatar’s Al Rayyan dominated the 2016 Qatar Stars League season – winning the title by 14 points – but their return to Asia’s premier club competition following a three-year hiatus will be a thorough test of their credentials, beginning with the Group D visit of Play-off winners Al Wahda of the United Arab Emirates.
Both sides are taking part in the AFC Champions League for the seventh time although Al Rayyan have never made it out of the group stages, while Al Wahda reached the semi-finals in 2007. In that year’s edition Al Wahda also beat Al Rayyan both home (3-0) and away (1-0).
Hosts Al Rayyan are the form side with four wins in their last five domestic fixtures while the visitors have won just once in the UAE Pro League since January 14. Al Wahda did, though, comfortably defeat Jordan’s Al Wehdat 3-0 in the play-offs a fortnight ago.
Rayyan coach Michael Laudrup will be hoping that his side can take advantage of the home conditions and get off to a good start like Lekhwiya did against Jazira yesterday.
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