Duhail, Rayyan win to set up exciting finale in title race
August 14 2020 11:49 PM
Abdullah al-Ahrak
Al Duhail’s Abdullah al-Ahrak (left) celebrates with Almoez Ali after scoring against Al Khor during the QNB Stars League match Friday

By Sports Reporter/Doha

The title race for the QNB Stars League title has gone down to the wire as contenders Al Duhail and Al Rayyan notched up crucial wins Friday. Leaders Duhail maintained a one-point cushion over Rayyan after Abdullah al-Ahrak’s early goal gave them a nervy win over Al Khor at the Al Sadd Stadium.
With just one round remaining, a victory for Duhail against Al Ahli next week will assure them the title. 
Rayyan too faced some anxious moments Friday before Yacine Brahimi converted a penalty in the 84th minute as they stayed in contention with a 1-0 win over Al Shahania at the Al Janoub Stadium. For Rayyan to win the title, they need to beat Al Wakrah in their last match and also hope Duhail stumble against Al Ahli. Reigning champions Al Sadd (44 points) are out of contention for the title.
At the Al Sadd Stadium, al-Ahrak opened the scoring as early as the ninth minute as The Red Knights held on for an important win, their 15th of the campaign, the most by any team.
The defeat, Al Khor’s 11th, left them with 16 points in 11th place. The Knights next play Al Shahania (15 points), who are also facing relegation along with Umm Salal (17 points).
Duhail, who had lost to Al Sadd in Week 20, dominated Al Khor right throughout the game. They attacked from the word go and went ahead when al-Ahrak volleyed in the ball from close on the turn after being set up by Almoez Ali following a cross by Ismail Mohamed from the right.
Duhail could have doubled the lead after 15 minutes, but for Al Khor goalkeeper Baba Djibril blocking Paulo Edmilson’s effort with a full-length dive. Al Khor’s Tiago Bezerra came close in the 19th minute with a header that went narrowly wide of the target after Lucca Borges curled in a free-kick.
The duo of Edmilson and Almoez kept combining well and the latter failed to connect the former’s cross on the half-hour mark. At the other end, Al Khor’s Helal Mohamed was thwarted by Duhail goalkeeper Mohamed al-Jabri. Almoez had two more chances in the second half. He headed a free-kick wide in the 71st minute and had his placing shot saved by Djibril in the 82nd minute. Al Khor’s Tiago and captain Naif al-Buriki too had opportunities during the session.
At the Al Janoub Stadium, Brahimi yet again came to Al Rayyan’s rescue by scoring the winning goal against Shahania. The Algerian attacking midfielder, one of the leading scorers in the league, had scored Al Rayyan’s all-important goal against Al Sailiya in Week 20 as well.
Meanwhile, Al Shahania’s woes compounded as they stayed bottom of the table with 15 points following their 10th defeat. They had been doing well ever since Nabil Anwar took charge of them replacing Spaniard Jose Murcia during the break.
They beat Ahli 3-1 in Week 18, the first match they played under Nabil, and followed it up with a 2-2 draw with Al Sailiya in Week 19 and goalless draw with Qatar SC in Week 20. Rayyan and Shahania had played out a 2-2 draw in the first leg. 
This time too, Shahania held on, despite Rayyan attacking more, till they conceded a penalty late into the game, awarded when Saleh al-Yahri ‘handled’ the ball as he and al-Rayyan defender Gabriel Mercado chased a corner kick taken by Brahimi.
The best chances of the first half were Mercado header off Abdulaziz Hatem’s free-kick being saved by goalkeeper Ebrahim Daryoush and Shahania’s Ramin Rezaein failing to connect a Jameel Saleem cross from the right.
Abdulaziz Hatem was at it again in the 66th minute with a long shot and Daryoush first fumbled in collection of the ball, but was successful before Abdulrahman al-Harazi could connect the rebound. Four minutes after Rayyan took the lead, Rezaein’s angular shot was guided out by Rayyan goalkeeper Fahd Younis.

Elamin nets winner for Gharafa against Umm Salal
In another match Friday, Al Gharafa defeated Umm Salal 1-0 at the Al Janoub Stadium. Homam Elamin scored the all-important goal in the 71st minute.
Gharafa, who had already ensured the fourth position despite being drawn by Al Khor in Week 20, moved on to 35 points, while Umm Salal remained on 17 points. It was The Cheetahs’ 10th victory this season, whereas Umm Salal, under Aziz Ben Askar, who had not lost a match since the QNB Stars League resumed following a long break forced by the coronavirus pandemic, suffered their 10th defeat. 
The Orange Fortress had held leaders Al Duhail, Qatar SC and Al Ahli, all to 1-1 draws, to earn three crucial points going into the Al Gharafa game.
That left Umm Salal with their fingers crossed ahead of their last-round game against Al Sailiya, as the former face relegation threat. Gharafa, coached by Serb Slavisa Jokanovic, had taken an unassailable lead for the fourth place, which will guarantee them a place in the Qatar Cup and possible AFC Champions League play-off berth next year, after the Week 20 results.
Gharafa’s Ahmed Alaaeldin, Jonathan Kodjia and Homam had chances in the first half. Gharafa’s Sofiane Hanni came off the bench in the 57th minute replacing Othman al-Yahri. 
The Algerian earned a penalty four minutes later when he was fouled by Ayyoub Azzi, but the resultant kick, taken by Hanni himself, was blocked by Umm Salal goalkeeper Baba Malick.
Umm Salal’s first worthwhile opportunity came in the 65th minute, but Raul Bezerra headed the ball over the bar. Gharafa surged ahead when Homam came up with a first-time, thunderous left-foot volley that beat goalkeeper Malick after he received the ball from a faulty headed clearance by Azzi off a cross from the right by Muad Hassan. 
Umm Salal had a chance to level the score in the 83rd minute, but Fahd Khalfan hit the side-netting.

Last updated: August 15 2020 08:46 AM

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