By Sports Reporter/Doha
Al Rayyan won their first Cup tournament in five years as they held their nerve to beat Al Duhail on penalties (5-3) and clinch the Sheikh Jassim Cup yesterday.
After an end-to-end encounter was deadlocked 1-1 at full time, Qatar football season’s traditional curtain-raiser went to penalties. And it was Rayyan goalkeeper Oumar Barry who emerged as the hero after he blocked Duhail striker Mohamed Muntari’s weak shot. Then Ahmed Mohamed Ali converted Rayyan’s last penalty to send his teammates and supporters into jubilation at the Al Sadd stadium.
Rayyan captain Rodrigo Tabata paid credit to the 15-day pre-season training camp they had in Europe, where the team focused on the tactical and fitness aspects.
“It was a team effort. It feels great to start the season with a win like this. I hope all of the players can give such committed performances in the coming weeks also. I have to give credit to my teammates and the way the new coach worked so hard with us. We won because of the hard work we put in the off-season,” Tabata said.
Both the teams had a new coach, and it was Rayyan’s Rodolfo Arruabarrena, who began his tenure with a victory. For Nabil Maaloul, who coached Tunisia at the recent World Cup and then replaced the highly-successful Djamel Belmadi at Duhail, he had more than one reason to worry after last night’s match,
Maaloul is already without his countryman and key striker Youssef Msakni, who is recovering from a knee ligament injury and is expected back only in December or January. Last night, Maaloul was dealt another blow when captain Karim Boudiaf limped off the field just after four minutes with a suspected knee injury. Boudiaf’s absence seemed to make an impact as Duhail started off slowly and committed too many fouls.
One such foul from defender Assim Omer Madebo almost cost them.
Madebo brought down Mowafak Awad Qidoom in the edge of the box. In the resulting free-kick Duhail goalkeeper Lecoumet Amin saved his team with a brilliant block off a curling right-footer from Tabata. Duhail regrouped thereafter as their midfield maestro Nam Tae-hee dictated the play. The South Korean exploited the spaces as he repeatedly cut through the Rayyan’s defence, providing his teammates with vital passes as Duhail went ahead in the 23rd minute.
Tae-hee sent Paulo Edmilson free on the left and the Belgian’s cross was steered in expertly by Ismail Mohamed, who hoodwinked the Rayyan defence with a sharp turn to send Barry the wrong way. Duhail’s new signing Edmilson made an impressive debut as he went close a couple of times and was also unlucky not to get a penalty.
At half-time Duhail were firmly in control of the game as the QNB Stars League title holders looked set for another title. But Rayyan were not ready to go down that easily as they upped the ante.
The renewed energy provided them the equaliser in the 64th minute. It was a superb move from Rayyan captain Tabata which set up the goal. Tabata lifted the ball to Mohammed Juma al-Alawi, who ran past couple of Duhail defenders to the left flank and released the ball to Abdulrahman Mohamed al-Harazi, who was able to slot it calmly past a helpless Amin.
Duhail, caught unawares by Rayyan goal, went for the kill. They thought they had the winner in the bag when Almoez Ali found the net in the 82nd minute from a corner. But the substitute forward was quite clearly off-side as Rayyan players heaved a sigh of relief.
Rayyan also had a chance in the dying moments but Sebastian Soria could not capitalise on a loose ball and shot wide.
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