All hail Duhail as Belmadi’s men crowned champions
April 08 2018 12:19 AM
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Al Duhail captain Youssef Msakni receives the winning shield from Qatar Football Association Vice-President Saoud Abdulaziz al-Mohannadi. Qatar Stars League CEO Hani Taleb Ballan Duhail coach Djamel Belmadi are also seen. PICTURE: Noushad Thekkayil

By Sports Reporter/Doha

Djemal Belmadi’s Al Duhail made history by going unbeaten throughout the QNB Stars League season as they were formally crowned champions after their final match against Al Sailiya yesterday.
Having wrapped up the title three weeks ago, they were keen to avoid an upset in their last match and they did that in style, winning 5-2 with Ismaeel Mohamed and Nam Tae-hee grabbing a brace each after Almoez Ali had given them an eighth minute lead.
Valentine Lazar from Romania ensured it was not a complete rout for Al Sailya with two goals in the final 10 minutes.
“It was a hectic few months and we have no complaints after finishing the tournament unbeaten,” Belmadi said.
“We proved that we are a highly motivated side and now we will strive to carry forward the momentum into the Qatar Cup, the Emir Cup and the remaining AFC Champions League matches,” he added.
The winners were crowned in the presence of Qatar Football Association Vice-President Saoud Abdulaziz al-Mohannadi, Qatar Stars League CEO Hani Taleb Ballan and senior QNB official Salim Anzan al-Nuaimi.
Al Duhail, thus ended their triumphant campaign with a whopping 60 points from 19 victories.
Al Duhail had already sealed the title with a 5-0 victory over Al Kharaitiyat in Week 20 with an unassailable lead over nearest challengers Al Sadd and it was only a formality. And they had beaten Al Markhiya in Week 21.
Against Al Sailiya, Al Duhail started without their goal machines Youssef El Arabi, who was nursing an injury and did not feature in the start list, and Youssef Msakni, who was on the bench.
The battle for the top-scorer award was between them, with Moroccan striker El Arabi (26) topping the chart with just one goal more than Tunisian attacking midfielder Msakni.
In their absence, Almoez led the Al Duhail charge, with Ismail, who has been in good form, and South Korean midfielder Nam Tae-hee too playing a charging game.
Such was the strength in their squad that they still won by a big margin. It may be recalled that El Arabi and Msakni jointly accounted for 51 of their 86 goals. 
Midfielder Karim Boudiaf donned the captain’s armband as Al Duhail made their intentions clear from the start. They surged ahead in the ninth minute through Almoez.
The hosts doubled their lead as the half hour approached. This time, Boudiaf gave a through pass for Ismail to score.
Ismail was at it again as he slammed home a cross from Abdelrahman Mohamed with an on-the-run shot to help them to a 3-0 lead at half-time even as the rivals mostly defended.      
Al Duhail took the field after resumption, with Msakni replacing Ismail. He created waves initially, but it was Nam who made it 4-0 by scoring from close range. The Tunisian limped off the field late in the game after aggravating his injury.
Al Sailiya, who had put up a much better performance in the first phase, holding Al Duhail to a 1-1 draw, were never in the game, leaving the opponents runaway winners. Valentin’s late goals were their only consolation.
He first scored off a pass from Temurkhuja Abdukholiqov and netted again after Nam found the mark for a second time.
Al Duhail thus achieved their sixth Qatar League title and first after they were formed by merging Lekhwiya with El Jaish. Four of them (2010-11, 2011-12, 2016-17 and 2017-18) came when Algerian Djamel Belmadi was at the helm. They had also triumphed under Eric Gerets (2013-14) and current Al Rayyan coach Michael Laudrup (2014-15).



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