By Sports Reporter/Doha
Karim Boudiaf, who played for Qatar during their 3-0 victory over Palestine in an international friendly on Tuesday, is back in the Al Duhail fold as they prepare for their AFC Champions League quarter-final away leg against Iran’s Persepolis on Monday.
Boudiaf, who underwent a surgery to correct a knee injury that he suffered during Al Duhail’s Sheikh Jassim Cup loss to Al Rayyan, showed good technical and physical levels. Al Duhail had beaten Persepolis 1-0 in the first leg played in Doha. Players who did duty for their countries are expected to join the squad soon before Nabil Maaloul’s men travel to Iranian capital Tehran for the Persepolis clash at the famous Azadi Stadium.
Following nine consecutive victories in the AFC Champions League, Duhail are on par with Ulsan Hyundai and one step away from writing history. Ulsan Hyundai recorded a historic run of nine successive wins in the AFC Champions League six years ago and ended up taking the title home. Now Al Duhail have matched the high of the Korean side, yet the teams took different paths in setting their records, and the Qatari club could well go on and extend their run.
Duhail have brought an entertaining brand of football to this season’s campaign with Youssef El Arabi scoring for fun while Youssef Msakni and Nam Tae-hee have excelled as the supporting cast. However, it was the attacking exploits of holding midfielder Boudiaf that earned the Qatari side their first six points of the campaign.
Boudiaf netted twice in the 3-1 win over Zobahan and scored the second of Al Duhail’s three goals in a narrow 3-2 win against Al Wahda on Matchday Two. Al Duhail demonstrated their killer scoring instinct, scoring thrice for a third game running, with El Arabi registering his second brace to help the team to a 3-2 home win against PCF Lokomotiv.
El Arabi made it six goals for the campaign and four wins on the trot in the reverse fixture, while Matchday Five was the first time Al Duhail failed to score multiple goals. Ismael Mohamed’s goal was enough to secure a 1-0 win against Zobahan. Another 1-0 win rounded off the results, ensuring they became just the third team in AFC Champions League history to end the group stage with 18 points.
Al Duhail battered Al Ain in the Round of 16, netting eight goals, evenly split between the two legs as El Arabi fired three over the two legs, taking his tally to nine. Coach Djamel Belmadi left the club over the summer and former Tunisia coach Nabil Maaloul was appointed as his replacement. The Tunisian coach made his AFC Champions League debut for the club in the dugout at home against Persepolis in the first leg of the quarter-finals. Al Duhail walked victorious out of the first leg thanks to a header from Almoez Ali to take a 1-0 lead into the second leg at Azadi Stadium, in the process, they recorded their ninth win in a row, equalling Ulsan’s six-year-old record.
Maaloul has previously won the CAF Champions League with Tunisia’s Esperance Sportive de Tunis, winning all his ties after the group stage. Persepolis have not lost any game on their home ground this season, yet a win for Al Duhail next Monday would mark a new record in AFC Champions League history.
Persepolis midfielder Bashar Resan has warned Al Duhail that they face a ‘difficult’ task to advance to the semi-finals, claiming the home advantage will play key a vital role in favour of the Iranian side. Persepolis boast a 100 percent record in front of their support having won four from four at Azadi Stadium and the Iranian giants overturned a one-goal deficit in the previous round when a 2-1 home victory saw them edge past the United Arab Emirates’ Al Jazira on away goals.
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